MUN entrepreneur looking to improve food security in Newfoundland and Labrador

Bennett Newhook's burgeoning social entrepreneurship firm Greenspace earned top honours at the Social Innovation Challenge this past weekend in St. John’s.

20-year-old Bennett Newhook has a plan to make urban farming more sustainable

Bennett Newhook hopes his business Greenspace will provide a boost to food security in this province. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

Bennett Newhook is only 20 years old but he's got a plan to help tackle food insecurity across Newfoundland and Labrador.

His burgeoning social entrepreneurship firm Greenspace earned top honours at the Social Innovation Challenge in St. John's Sunday.

Greenspace, which is still in the development stage, would help build low-cost urban farms from recycled materials.

The genesis behind the idea came when Newhook, a third-year mechanical engineering student at Memorial University, found himself on a work term in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Food prices in St. John's aren't great, he thought, but what he saw in Labrador was worrying.

"I noticed the state of the produce down there was far lower than even what you would see in St. John's and the prices were much higher," he said Monday.

"It's at an unsustainable level."

Hoping to have first unit in months

The plan for Greenspace is to start small, working with community groups that already have infrastructure in place to get a farm up and running, and to apply for local grants and seek sustainability funding.

"It's on an industrial-level scale," says Newhook.

"We build these units from shipping containers that are 20 feet long. So although they fit in a parking space, they have the opportunity to employ three people full time."

A photo rendering showing the size of one of Greenspace's urban farms. (Submitted by Bennett Newhook)

By winning the competition, Newhook and his partners, Justin Elliot, Draco Dunphy, and Sonya Killam took home $1,500 in cash and over $2,000 in business support.

"We're hoping to have a unit down within the next couple of months," said Newhook.

With files from the St. John's Morning Show