Members of Growing North in front of their newly built greenhouse with Naujaat locals.

PHOTO COURTESY: BEN CANNING

Students go north to build greenhouse

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By Noushin Ziafati

In early October, a group of Ryerson business students completed the construction of a greenhouse in the town of Naujaat, Nunavut. The dome-shaped greenhouse was built to tackle the problem of food insecurity in northern Canada as part of their Growing North project.

“I think this is not just a greenhouse, this is kind of an infrastructure of hope,” said Stefany Nieto, a fourth-year business management student and president of Enactus Ryerson, an organization that takes on innovative and sustainable projects that the other members of Growing North are a part of as well.

Nieto and Ben Canning, co-project managers of Growing North, wanted this project to approach a national issue.

“We began to investigate a Canadian need that we could hopefully address and we landed upon food insecurity,” Nieto said.

Residents in Naujaat pay nearly six times as much for their food as residents of Toronto due to inflated import costs. The greenhouse is meant to lower food prices and to ensure a higher quality of produce.

“Imagine an orange for $4,” Nieto said. “Depending on the weather, the longer it takes to come, the [more] the quality of food comes down so you have food that is both costly and low quality.”

There was a minor setback for the project, which they had planned to finish in August, due to dry ice that prevented their materials from reaching the remote hamlet by ship. This delay is similar to  what residents in northern Canada face when waiting for their imported food to arrive.

Nieto says that profits earned from the sale of the produce will be reinvested back into the community for micro or local businesses as well as bursaries for post-secondary education.

They have also started a women’s collective to come together as groups to create food products. They aim to sell food not only locally, but to nearby communities and Naujaat’s cultural clothing to southern Canada as well.

“This greenhouse is not only just for growing produce but it’s to empower the community,” Nieto said.

According to Nieto, the Naujaat residents are “super excited to have the project, and most importantly, they want it.”

The residents helped the Ryerson students build the greenhouse. The students then taught them how to plant, harvest, run the dome and look forward to the actual growth of the produce. The Naujaat residents even donated the land on which the greenhouse was built.

“As for expansion, right now, we are working to ensure the success of our first greenhouse. However, we do believe that every community in the north does deserve a greenhouse to reduce food insecurity,” Nieto said.

In order to raise money for their cause and to pay for the $164,000 greenhouse, the students involved in the project focused mainly on external funding, such as competitions and an online Indiegogo campaign. They also covered some costs through sponsorships.

“We’ve reached our goal and we’re extremely happy with it,” Nieto said.

Below is a time lapse video of the construction, courtesy of Enactus Ryerson.

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