Conference on greenhouses first of its kind in the NWT

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo Kim Rapati, operations manager with the Northern Farm Training Institute, stands inside a geodesic dome greenhouse built last fall.

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Kim Rapati, operations manager with the Northern Farm Training Institute, stands inside a geodesic dome greenhouse built last fall.

A conference on greenhouses – the first of its kind in the NWT – will take place in Hay River this coming weekend.

The NWT CanGrow Greenhouse Conference has been organized for March 11 and 12 by the Aurora Research Institute, and will be hosted at the Northern Farm Training Institute (NFTI).

“The purpose of the conference is to bring together researchers and industry professionals from around Canada, and NWT growers, to talk about greenhouse technologies and how we can use different things to grow better in the North,” said Kim Rapati, the operations manager with NFTI.

“I think it’s going to be pretty exciting because the Aurora Research Institute has been finding people who are doing research right now in this field and there’s some really neat people coming up to showcase some of their stuff,” she said.

In all, between 40 to 50 people are expected for the by-invitation-only conference.

The participants will come from such organizations as universities, Greenhouse Canada, governments and the Arctic Energy Alliance. Some will be coming from Alberta, B.C. and Ontario.

In addition, greenhouse operators, or those about to start one, will be coming from Inuvik, Fort Good Hope, Tulita, Trout Lake, Gameti, Fort Simpson, Wrigley, Fort Smith and Hay River.

Rapati explained the conference is designed to be a real sharing experience.

“It’s a very different conference and very exciting,” she said. “It’s still small enough that we’ll all get time to talk to each other, and really diverse. We’ll be able to share experiences and maybe really inspiring things will come out of it.”

Jessica Dutton, the community research co-ordinator with the Aurora Research Institute in Fort Smith, said the conference is the organization’s first project involving greenhouses.

“The idea is to bring together researchers and businesses that work on innovations for greenhouse technology,” she said. “The focus is really on innovative greenhouse technologies that could benefit growers in the North and people who are trying to produce food, mostly commercially.”

Dutton said the conference will be looking at the bigger picture, meaning innovative technologies for larger-scale operations.

While the conference is by invitation, there will be a public aspect called NWT CanGrow Greenhouse Tech Trade Fair from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on March 12.

“We wanted to have something open to the public because we wanted to make sure we included people in Hay River who wanted to come and meet these tech people,” said Rapati.

She expects about 15 booths will be set up for the tech fair so participants in the conference can explain the work they are doing and their innovations.

The NFTI farm camp, just off Highway 2, is an appropriate place for a conference on greenhouses.

Along with the frame of a traditional hoop greenhouse, the farm camp has a geodesic dome greenhouse.

“We just built that in October and there’s nothing in it,” said Rapati, noting that non-geodesic dome greenhouses tend to be less able to endure the weight of the snow. “We wanted to invest in the geodesic dome greenhouse, and it holds up really well against the snow. It has no problem at all.”

–Paul Bickford