Growing green: all-season greenhouse supporting local, low-cost sustainable agriculture throughout cold northern winters

Posted on Monday August 31, 2015
Jeff Scharf, (far right) is one of founders of Greenhouses Canada and President of Helios Whitefish River First Nation.

ESPANOLA— Using state-of-the art design and technology, an all-season greenhouse is now bearing fruit and vegetables, including cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers in Espanola.

Cambrian College’s applied research division, Cambrian Innovates, along with its partners, Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) and Greenhouses Canada, a partner of Helios Whitefish River First Nation, have collaborated to design, build, and test this all-season greenhouse using energy-efficient techniques and materials.

A commercial scale model of this greenhouse will begin construction in Whitefish River First Nation during the spring of 2016. This innovative greenhouse will enhance food security and empower the community to supply its own produce year-round.

“A major barrier for local food production in northern boreal climates is the short growing season and the heating cost associated with prolonging the growing season,” said Jeff Scharf, who is one of founders of Greenhouses Canada and President of Helios Whitefish River First Nation. “The objective of this project was to empower local communities so that they have an affordable means to grow fresh produce year-round, offering food independence and security, cost savings, local jobs, as well as environmental, social, and health benefits for residents.”

The main challenge for all-season greenhouse growers in northern Ontario is heating costs over the winter months. Growing seasons, which are up to 12 months for operators in warmer regions, are restricted to 5-6 months in the north. The building techniques and materials used in this project reduce energy needs and create a year-round growing season, making regional food production in the north a viable industry.

The project was developed using an energy-efficient greenhouse system and sustainable energy technologies, such as solar thermal wall construction, in-ground heat batteries, and insulation to prevent heat loss in winter. The greenhouse was designed and built by Cambrian College faculty and students from the Energy Systems Technology and Carpentry Renovation Techniques programs. Professors Dr. Kameal Mina and Jeff Lapierre led the students in their work.

“Ontario Centres of Excellence is pleased to have been able to support the development of this project in its early stages,” said OCE President and CEO Dr. Tom Corr. “It shows the ingenuity and innovative spirit that are alive and well in our colleges and universities being used to benefit the community in many ways.”

Six new jobs have been created since the greenhouse was completed in spring 2015. Helios Whitefish River First Nation hired one of the students who worked on the project and five other people for fabrication and sales. The company started construction on an energy-efficient greenhouse and modular home fabrication facility in Espanola, Ontario. It is expected that within a year, five to eight additional employees will be required at the fabrication facility and in sales positions.


Media Contacts:

Lynn Bulloch
Communications Officer
Cambrian College
(705) 566-8101, extension 6375

Nadine Olivier
Marketing Coordinator
Cambrian Innovates
(705) 566-8101, extension 6831

Meghan Mathe
Marketing and Communications
Greenhouses Canada
(705) 207-8952


Graduation celebration a happy ending for former Everest College students

Posted on Thursday August 20, 2015
Group photo: Seven of eight Confederation College Medical Laboratory Assistant graduates attended a ceremony held at Cambrian College on August 19.

SUDBURY – Eight former Everest College students enjoyed a special celebration on Wednesday, August 19. Graduates received a Medical Laboratory Assistant certificate from Confederation College, after completing their studies in Sudbury at Cambrian College.

During the …

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