In isolated communities or remote locations, it can be difficult to access fresh fruits and vegetables. The Aquatic and Crop Resource Development Research Centre is collaborating with partners in Canada's North on an initiative to help develop methods and solutions to grow plants in harsh environments.
Researchers from the Aquatic and Crop Resource Development Research Centre, with the support of the Energy, Mining and Environment and Construction Research Centres, are working with partners from the Arctic Research Foundation (ARF), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the Canadian Space Agency to adapt a research pod into an efficient, and sustainable production unit tailored to the needs of the community of Gjoa Haven, Nunavut. The project, named Naurvik, which means "growing place", is a community-driven initiative that will see the development of technology to provide year-round plant growth within the community, through controlled environmental units powered by renewable wind and solar energy sources.
The initial research has focused on perishable fruits like strawberries, which are not readily available to Northern and remote communities. Following the evaluation of 4 F1 hybrid strawberry cultivars in Saskatoon, seeds from the best performing cultivar were shipped to Gjoa Haven, where community members conducted a successful production trial. The first strawberry harvest was gifted to a community elder and this cultivar was successfully grown for 7 months in the facility.
Through community input, methods for growing Indigenous plant species in the controlled environmental units will also be developed. Through the ARF, members of the Gjoa Haven community have been hired and trained in helping maintain the research pod.
While this first collaboration is working on a food production system, the project will also help inform how growth technologies and infrastructure can be delivered in a number of harsh and isolated locations.