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Charlebois: Arctic agriculture a growth area – Ottawa Citizen

Investing in northern agriculture is not just about the North.

Canadian northern regions have often been considered ideal portals into important markets like Russia and Asia. The geopolitical virtues of the North are recognizable to many. Numbering among these are oil and gas, mining, forestry, fishing, and, not too far down the road, the production of fresh fruits and vegetables. Yes, that’s right — Northern agriculture can expand and support local communities in years to come.

During a recent visit up North, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Hay River, Northwest Territories, will be the new home of a scalable, modular farm system, which has been developed by the University of Guelph after many years of research. This facility will use state-of-the-art hydroponic technologies and high-intensity, computer-controlled LED lighting to produce fruits and vegetables indoors all year round. This is welcome news, not only for the North, but many Canadians as well.

Supporting aboriginal communities in their quest to procure healthy local foods is key for the future of a region that will likely witness profound climatic changes over the next few decades. Judging by the imminence of these changes, this initiative is long overdue. Climate change induces risks; yet, at the same time, it also creates possibilities for new production systems because farming everywhere comes down to the weather. In our Northern regions, agricultural purpose is bound to change and more investment in the area can only help.

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