Toronto Star

A group of Ryerson University students hope their greenhouse project can help ease the high cost of food in Northern Canada.


From left, Ryerson University students Brad Smith, Ben Canning, Sonya Noronha and Ilya Zatolokin started a company that will build a greenhouse in Nunavut to produce cheaper food for one remote community.

By: Liam Casey The Canadian Press, Published on Sun Jun 07 2015

If you build it, they will grow — or so it’s hoped.

Several Ryerson University business students have a field of dreams in mind, one enclosed by a greenhouse in which people in Nunavut can grow fresh vegetables in their polar realm.

Two those heading up to the remote hamlet of Repulse Bay on the Arctic Circle this summer to make this come true are Stefany Nieto and Ben Canning, who met two years ago and began to ponder projects that would raise living standards for Canadians.

As part of Enactus, an international organization that connects students, professors and business experts, they initially looked at providing skills to inmates and producing baby warmers for northern families. Then they came across food scarcity in the North.

Food, especially produce, can be hard to come by in Nunavut, as it must be flown or shipped in, making it egregiously expensive. Hunger is therefore a threat in places like Repulse Bay.

“That’s the reality they have to face every day,” said Canning, 19. “And Canada is supposedly a developed country. The situation is just baffling.”

They first visited the Arctic Circle village last summer to meet locals and discuss their “Growing North” project. The locals have since donated land for the greenhouse.

The students also asked residents what foods they’d like to grow, using hydroponic technology. The answers were typical: potatoes, onions, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes.

Back in the south, the students raised more than $150,000 through donations to buy a geodesic dome greenhouse — it looks like an igloo made of plastic panels — from a Colorado firm that says it can withstand 200 km/h winds and 250 centimetres of snow.

The dome’s parts arrive in Repulse Bay by ship Aug. 15 and the students will assemble it in about a week, Nieto said. Local students will grow the crops as part of their curriculum.

Mayor Solomon Malliki is excited about the project. “This should help. The cost of food is a major problem,” he said, adding he recently paid $13 for four apples.