Growing local food is a challenge in Ontario’s northern climate due to a short growing season. As a result, fresh healthy produce can be scarce and expensive for communities. Greenhouses offer the potential for prolonged indoor growing, but high heating costs during extremely cold winters are a barrier for many northern growers.
Sudbury-based Greenhouses Canada (GHC), in collaboration with Cambrian College, has developed an innovative, energy efficient greenhouse solution. Cambrian researchers found that most of a greenhouse’s heat is lost through its glass walls. By replacing some of the glass walls with insulated material and incorporating an angled roof shape, they were able to design a greenhouse that reduces heating costs by 85 per cent, allowing for year-round growing. The system uses water-based growing techniques such as hydroponics and aquaponics, which produce a higher yield at a faster pace than conventional soil-based growing. Also, water-based techniques conserve water.
A two-year Ontario Centres of Excellence Voucher for Innovation and Productivity (VIP) project allowed GHC and Cambrian to build a demonstration system in Espanola, Ontario. Now fully operational, the greenhouse is growing lettuce, peas, kale, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers.
GHC has secured contracts to build greenhouse systems in other communities in Northern Ontario and Saskatchewan, with plans to expand to other remote locations in Canada and beyond. The company is now working with Cambrian on geothermal systems for the greenhouse, which upon proof of concept, would make it completely off-grid.
Return on Innovation
- Significant social and economic impacts including improved food security and creating local jobs
- Projects hiring 50+ employees in the next three years
- Hired three Cambrian graduates from the project to full-time positions
- OCE investment: $19,030
OCE©2015 Last updated 10/2015