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Hydroponics at KLRS

CropBox at the Research Station

Fresh produce can be grown throughout the year at KLRS thanks to the Ag1054 project and installation of a CropBox.

CropBox is a containerized agriculture system that uses hydroponic technology to grow up to 18,000 lbs. of fresh produce. With automated lights, pH levels, heating and CO2, the CropBox can reduce growing times and provide year-round produce in any climate.

Our system is all about efficiency, using 90% less water and 80% less fertilizer than conventional agriculture methods, and produces some of the best produce out there. The system is designed with harsh conditions in mind, and comes with R60 insulation and an Arctic Entrance to provide more space to harvest and package produce.

To purchase fresh leafy greens and learn more about our activities, please visit our Ag1054 website.

CropBox at KLRS
Our CropBox arriving at the Research Station in 2020.

Off-grid Food Production

We propose to install and evaluate the food production capabilities, economic feasibility, environmental sustainability, and optimized operating settings of an off-grid, cold-weather adapted, containerized food production system at the Kluane Lake Research Station. Containerized agricultural systems offer much promise given other initiatives that have tested a similar model in other geographies. This proposed project will be the first time that such a system will be operated completely off-grid, using predominantly solar energy. As containerized food production systems were first developed in warmer climates, we are also testing the effectiveness of a cold-weather adaptation (via an insulating sleeve) for the first time to test its ability to optimize energy usage in subarctic temperatures.

Inside the container
Inside a CropBox.

This project will test and potentially make the case that off-grid containerized agricultural systems offer a long-term sustainable approach to food production in remote northern locations. This proposed experiment will test, monitor and evaluate variables in order to help communities make informed decisions about investing in similar technologies. Examples of variables that will be tracked include: water use, renewable energy storage and consumption, food production, and the nutritional quality of food produced across a seasonal gradient. Economic feasibility is an important consideration and we will evaluate if produce can be grown in an off-grid containerized agriculture system for less than the cost of purchasing fresh produce (including transportation) of a comparable quality from Whitehorse. More specific economic considerations will include: actual versus estimated costs to purchase, install, and operate the specialized system; human resource requirements to manage the system; volume and costs of inputs (seeds, plants, water, fertilizer); volume of diesel required to supplement the off-grid system; and comparative cost to run the system on-grid versus off-grid to name a few examples.

The seeds are planted into dirt-free compostable squares, these are then placed under specialized grow lights to get the seedlings started. Depending on the germination time for the specific plant they could be in this process from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. Once the seedlings have started to sprout they are moved from the nurturing station to their own space within the CropBox where they will grow until harvest. Depending on the plant, this takes 1 – 4 weeks to produce crops such as spinach, lettuce, kale, strawberries, arugula. Harvesting is as simple as pulling the plant out and cutting off the bottom compostable square. Without any dirt, this process is clean and quick. You are now ready to enjoy your produce, and use that space again.

Produce growing inside a CropBox
Produce growing inside a CropBox.

Partners

This project has a number of partners including the Arctic Institute of North America, the University of Calgary, Kluane Lake Research Station, and Kluane First Nation. These partners are joined by ColdAcre Food Systems Inc. out of Whitehorse who are growers, builders, designers, consultants, and suppliers of innovative and sustainable growing systems for fresh and nutritious food year-round, and Solvest Inc. (Whitehorse), a solar company specializing in residential, commercial, First Nations and Inuit, and utility-scale solar installations.

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