The Quebec government is putting $5 million over three years into developing greenhouse gardening in the far north, where the normal growing season lasts for less than 100 days.

Two community greenhouses already exist in Kuujjuaq, 1,400 kilometres north of Montreal — the main town in the Quebec Inuit territory of Nunavik. There, local greenhouse participants have been growing food for themselves and their neighbours for several years.

Kuujjuaq greenhouse hanging plants

A plastic milk crate acts as a hanging planter at the Kuujjuaq greenhouse, 1,400 kilometres north of Montreal. (Kuujjuaq greenhouse/Facebook)

The Société du Plan Nord, the agency charged with planning sustainable development in Northern Quebec, is spearheading the initiative in the hope that it will lead to commercial vegetable production to feed residents in Nunavik's far-flung villages.

"There has been more and more interest from the population to grow vegetables up there. Now, we want to go one step further," said Robert Sauvé, the agency's president and managing director.

Fresh produce must now be flown in, driving up prices and limiting the variety and availability of fruits and vegetables.

"We're really confident [greenhouse] production will be much cheaper," Sauvé told CBC's Quebec AM. "It's not only a matter of cost. It's a matter of quality and availability."  

If the pilot project is successful, it could extend the growing season to eight months of the year.

Garbage as fuel

The key to the commercial greenhouse's success will be to provide it with a source of heat, Sauvé said.

The plan is to use garbage, now burned in the open air, to be incinerated at a thermal waste treatment station instead.

"The heat recovered from this production would heat the greenhouse and maybe some buildings as well," said Sauvé.

The project is still in the early stages, with this year dedicated to planning, building partnerships, conducting a feasibility study and working on the structural design.

Kuujjuaq greenhouse

Greenhouses like this one in Kuujjuaq could one day spring up all over Northern Quebec, if Plan Nord's pilot project is successful. (Kuujjuaq greenhouse/Facebook)

Sauvé said the intent it to have an operating greenhouse by the project's third year.

Quebec is also dedicating another $3 million over five years to about a dozen new non-profit and communal greenhouses in any territory touched by Quebec's northern plan, including Nunavik, the James Bay territory and the Lower North Shore.

With files from Quebec AM