November 16, 2007

Solar brings bananas to Greenland

“I am quite sure you could do this also in Iqaluit.”

JANE GEORGE

Greenland's first crop of bananas are ripe and the auction bidding is on.

The top bid for a single banana so far in Greenland's first-ever banana auction is 600 Danish krøner - about $100, said Bent Oleson, who manages a solar-powered commercial greenhouse in the southern Greenland community of Narsaq.

The greenhouse, a three-year pilot project, also produces vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce, green peppers and cucumbers for Narsaq. There's only one banana palm tree, which Oleson brought to Greenland from Iceland.

Bent Oleson recently grew Greenland’s first crop of home-grown bananas.
(PHOTO COURTESY OF BENT OLESON)

Oleson doesn't expect Greenland will become as big a producer of bananas as neighbouring Iceland.

"It's too expensive to grow bananas," Oleson said in a telephone interview from his greenhouse in Narsaq. "But it was fun to try."

Most bananas are grown within 10 degrees of the equator.

But since the 1930s, farmers in Iceland have built greenhouses near hot springs. The warm water heats the greenhouses, where other vegetables as well as flowers, grapes and bananas are grown.

Until now, Iceland has been the only circumpolar nation to produce bananas. Thanks to its ready supply geothermal energy, Iceland's huge greenhouses now produce all the bananas the country needs.

The large plant-man is a decoration in a commercial greenhouse in southern Iceland, where greenhouses, heated by a plentiful supply of underground hot water, produce vegetables, flowers and fruits.
(PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Oleson's dream is to produce more fresh vegetables and fruits for Greenlanders.

In addition to the ready supply of fresh vegetables, the greenhouse will generate jobs and tax revenues for the government, Oleson said. It will also produce fewer greenhouse gases than the airplanes now required to bring in Greenland's produce.

Oleson would like to see every community in Greenland with its own commercial greenhouse. At present, many homes have their own tiny greenhouses, but there is no larger-scale, commercial business.

Now that the pilot project, funded by the Nordic Innovations Centre, the Greenland government and the municipality of Narsaq, has shown that a greenhouse can work in southern Greenland, Oleson wants to move ahead with the construction of a larger, 1,000-metre greenhouse.

The greenhouse will be warmed by huge solar panels and by a heat recycling plant, which will circulate energy during the coldest, darkest period of the year.

"I am quite sure you could do this also in Iqaluit," Oleson said.