It’s harvest time! Yukon’s first off-grid, landless, hydroponic farm unit produces crops
The Kluane Lake Research Station located between Haines Junction and Destruction Bay is known for its studies of climate change and its impacts on wildlife and the ecosystem.
Now they are looking at food sustainability in the North.
It took months of work, but their off-grid hydroponic containerized farm unit is now producing leafy greens and herbs.
The first crop of crops comes after only six weeks of planting the first set of seeds.
Brittany Weber is the agricultural operations coordinator for the research station.
And she is responsible for looking after the crops.
“We grow plants without using soil,” she explained.
“Instead, we use this nutrient-rich water solution. Using pumps and gravity, we wash the water off the roots of the plants and this provides them with everything they need.
Weber says that because the system is containerized, it is a controlled environment, so pesticides and herbicides are not used.
Inside the container
The unit measures eight by 40 feet and can hold up to 2,800 mature plants and 1,000 seedlings.
“We have six shelves running from floor to ceiling,” Weber said when visiting the unit.
Entering the container is described as an optical illusion.
“The trays are actually tilted, so you will stay there and see the next tray in the back row and it will be a foot from the first tray, but it’s really gravity so water can flow naturally into those trays.” , Weber mentioned.
The plants are arranged in an “age cascade”.
The front of the container will contain the large greens while the rear of the unit will have the newly planted seedlings.
“You will be able to see the different life cycles of plants,” Weber said.
The entrance to the container has been transformed into a processing area called the arctic entrance.
This makes it possible to process vegetables and greens in freezing temperatures, without worrying about frostbite or loss of leaves.
“We have a small processing area called the Arctic Entrance”,
About 350 plants will be harvested next week.
Products include kale, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, basil, cilantro and dill.
Henry Penn, director of the research station and project manager, says the next step is to bring the products out into the community.
“The plan for the first number of harvests, they’ll be put together in a few small sample bags,” Penn said.
“We will take them to places around the Kluane area and offer them to anyone who wants them for free.”
The goal behind this is for people to try the product, understand how it is grown, and provide feedback on what type of product is needed and wanted in the community.
Penn says that now that the project is up and running, the public is invited to tour the station and see how it all works in person.
“People are more than welcome to come to the Kluane Lake Research Station and take a tour, see the facility and learn all about the project,” said Penn.