In Kotzebue, Alaska, temperatures can plunge to 60 degrees below zero, making crisp, local produce difficult to obtain. And when vegetables do make it to grocery store shelves from other parts of the world, they’re incredibly expensive even though they may have been picked two or three weeks prior. So Kikiktagruk Inupiat Corporation (KIC) is trying a fresh approach: hydroponically growing produce in shipping containers.
KIC started subsidiary company Arctic Greens to provide fresh produce to Kotzebue residents. Partnering with Anchorage-based Vertical Harvest Hydroponics to create a custom 40 foot container, KIC kicked off the hydroponic farm project this summer. Local grocery store Alaska Commercial (AC) agreed to buy the resulting produce. The first harvest was a success; according to Arctic Greens, local residents noticed an “extraordinary difference in flavor and quality.”
So far KIC aims to grow 21 herbs and vegetables such as kale, romaine lettuce, broccoli, and basil. KIC President Will Anderson said the hydroponic farm could produce as many as 550 pieces of fresh food every week by the time its fully operational. Since Arctic Greens can control temperatures inside the shipping container, the system may just be perfect to provide food in frigid winters.
Part of the goal behind Arctic Greens is to empower people to “change some of the shopping patterns,” according to AC Director of Sales and Operations Jeff Cichosz. Supplying green produce at affordable prices, Arctic Greens could enable Alaskan communities to pursue healthier lifestyles. KIC will test Arctic Greens this winter to see what yields are like, and if successful spread the program to other areas of Alaska and even northern Canada. 28 AC stores sprinkled across the rural areas are ready to buy the produce should the project expand.
Images via Kikiktagruk Inupiat Corporation Facebook