'Smart' greenhouse nabs Yukoner prize for innovation

Maxime Dugre-Sasseville's thermodynamic greenhouse design has won him the $60,000 Yukon Innovation Prize.

Maxime Dugre-Sasseville wins this year's $60K Yukon Innovation Prize

A 'self-operating' thermodynamic greenhouse designed by Maxime Dugre-Sasseville. (Submitted by Maxime Dugre-Sasseville)

A Yukon inventor has won this year's Yukon Innovation Prize to help develop his concept for a greenhouse intended to extend the northern growing season.

Maxime Dugre-Sasseville was announced the winner of the $60,000 cash prize on Wednesday. He was selected from a short list of four, which was announced in April. The prize is sponsored by Cold Climate Innovation centre at Yukon College and the Yukon government.

"I thought my idea was a winning idea. I was confident," Dugre-Sasseville said. "I gave it all that I got, and it paid off."

His idea is to develop a "smart" thermodynamic greenhouse that automatically responds to changes in temperature. Solar panels heat an underground pool of water beneath the structure and planting beds inside are built like mini greenhouses that can be heated individually during colder months.  

"Since we can actually tweak the temperature into the planting beds, we can actually open up to more heat-loving plants. 

"It's all about heat exchange. We're conserving what we can get from the environment and then we're also enhancing the gain with a heating system," he said.

The greenhouse is meant to be "self-operating", he said, using only solar energy. 

Dugre-Sasseville says his design is more efficient than a standard greenhouse and could be used eight to 12 months of the year, in Northern communities.

The prize money will help him develop a prototype — "our flagship for commercialization" — and prepare his concept for market. He hopes to sell customized greenhouses to both the commercial and residential markets, for prices comparable to standard greenhouses.

He's hoping to have his prototype perfected within three years.

With files from Mike Rudyk