Sherry Lalonde: Hi, my name is Sherry and I’m the food literacy specialist at the Ottawa Public Library. Recently, we spoke with Corey Ellis, president of Enactus Ottawa, an international student group that focuses on social entrepreneurship. Corey tells us about the Growcer project, a high-tech solution to growing affordable fresh food in the arctic. Corey Ellis: What the Growcer allows, is to grow food in temperatures of -55 and grow five tons of produce in these retro-fitted shipping containers that we use, by using hydroponic technology. Corey Ellis: The system, essentially think of it like a closed-loop system that re-circulates water, and the water is filled with nutrients so the plants get the same nutrients they would get in the soil but it’s introduced via water supply and it continuously re-circulates so because of that for example we use 92% less water than traditional agriculture. We also grow two acres worth of food within 320 square feet. The system measures everything from air temperature to humidity in the air to pH in the water and nutrient levels every few seconds, and then adjusts all the conditions to suit perfectly the plants needs so it really is about, sort of a process of continuous optimization to make sure that this really tight environment we‘ve created is completely sealed from the elements; is in a perfect sort of spot for all the plants to thrive in. Sherry Lalonde: The shipping containers are a sustainable food production system that aims to grow crops in the most efficient manner possible, any savings generated are kept in the community with each Growcer farm being owned and operated locally. Corey Ellis: We’re able to automate most of it via satellite, so we’re able to control what’s going on and so what that creates for us is, well there’s a revenue stream that comes back to us and we invest that into experts that can sort of mimic the environment that they’re growing in to optimize for different crops. So what we’re trying to do is continuously find 5% gains in efficiency or 10% gains in efficiency by doing certain things at different times of a plant’s life cycle, to understand better what the farmers can do locally to optimize their yields and grow a bit faster or grow more in that same time period and if we’re able to do that we push those updates out to the entire network so it’s a bit like a software update where all the systems will automatically adjust. Corey Ellis: Plants are very, they’re very predictable, right and so sometimes we use the plants’ self-defense mechanisms against them. So, for example you take a tomato plant, if you introduce certain stressing factors to a tomato plant at a certain point in its life cycle it’ll actually, to protect itself make all of its fruit ripen really quickly. Sherry Lalonde: Although launched in the Arctic, Enactus sees potential for the Growcer system well beyond their initial expectations. Corey Ellis: We’re starting in the arctic, that’s sort of our niche but we see applications across the world, right? In arid regions especially, because of the water efficiency piece and then also in urban environments where people are more and more cognisant of the fact that their food is traveling thousands of kilometres and if they can grow food within, not even one kilometre from their home I think that’s really interesting. We’re starting in the arctic where the need is greatest but then with a proven technology there, there’s nothing really stopping us from going elsewhere.