Three ‘crazy good ideas’ for the cold

A dome that grows vegetables without soil, a new technique for silt sampling and a portable shelter system are among the new projects being worked on under the Cold Climate Innovation label at the Yukon Research Centre.

A dome that grows vegetables without soil, a new technique for silt sampling and a portable shelter system are among the new projects being worked on under the Cold Climate Innovation label at the Yukon Research Centre at Yukon College.

The projects will be partially funded using $700,000 over two years from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, or CanNor.

The research centre has had access to the cash since May, but it was officially announced at a media event with political bigwigs on Nov. 13.

Stephen Mooney, director of Cold Climate Innovation at the research centre, gave a rundown of some of the new work that is being done.

“We’ve got three types of ideas that come to us,” he said. “We’ve got good ideas, we’ve got crazy ideas and we’ve got crazy good ideas…

“All three of these are crazy good ideas.”

Right now, the shell of the aeroponics dome has already been built behind the research centre. Once completed, the partially-automated facility will grow plants by suspending their roots in the air and feeding them through a nutrient-rich fine mist.

The system is expected to be easier to assemble and more energy efficient than your standard greenhouse. It’s also a more efficient use of space so it can fit more plants.

The goal is to create something that can grow fresh vegetables in northern communities year-round and is compatible with renewable energy sources, Mooney said.

The new shelter system, dubbed The Total Shelter, is being designed to be used for anything from a permanent structure around mining and bush camps to temporary office space in the communities or the city.

The shelters are about the size of a Sea-Can container, but are collapsible so the walls can be stacked.

The third project is being described as providing a safer and more efficient alternative to conventional silt sampling techniques.

More details on all the projects will be released as the work progresses, Mooney said.

CanNor and Yukon’s Department of Economic Development are splitting the cost of bankrolling these projects.

Mooney said the committee that decides which projects to fund always has an eye out for innovative ideas.

“What they all have in common is that they’re Yukon built, they’re solving Yukon problems, Yukon issues, and we’re using Yukon resources,” he said.

Last year CanNor funding helped pay for a handful of projects involving cold climate innovation. That included the atomic absorption spectrometer which can analyze metal concentrations in water, soil, rock, plant and tissue samples, and NorthwesTel’s work to power remote stations in part with solar panels.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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