Addressing food sustainability in the North

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Addressing food sustainability in the North

The SocialVentures Zone provides us with various degrees of support, anything from mentorship to funding. It has helped Growing North turn from an idea into a social enterprise.”

Benjamin Canning and Stefany Nieto, Ryerson University business management students

Addressing food sustainability in the North

Growing North developed by two Ryerson University students addresses food insecurity in Northern Canada and is helping communities provide locally grown and affordable produce to families year-round through geodesic greenhouse domes and education.

The severe food insecurity rate affecting Canada’s northern communities galvanized business management students Benjamin Canning and Stefany Nieto to create Growing North with the help of the university’s innovation zones and student entrepreneurship supports. Seed funding enabled them to acquire the materials needed to build the first greenhouse in Nunavut in the small community of Naujaat (also known as Repulse Bay). Growing North’s 42 feet high Geodesic Growing Dome was built in October 2015 and can withstand Naujaat’s near impossible outdoor growing conditions, such as extreme cold and high wind speeds.

With only four hours of sunlight, the Growing Dome can heat itself 30 degrees warmer than external conditions and is completely recyclable. Within the first year of launching, Growing North’s stakeholders – 98% of Naujaat’s residents were identified as wanting a community greenhouse – will be provided with over 20,000 pounds of fresh, affordable produce at a fraction of the cost of what is air freighted.

Growing North will help incubate further social entrepreneurship in Naujaat, as all profits generated will be distributed back to the community through jobs running the Growing Dome, micro-loans and educational bursaries. By improving food security in the north, Canning and Nieto aspire to empower and mentor Naujaat’s residents about greenhouse technologies and financial literacy. For these business management students, social innovation is hope for a future in which business can increase the standard of living for those around the globe.

For more information on Growing North, visit Ryerson University.