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Agri & Gardening circular economy  the project polar permaculture | Upload Vegetables

Circular Economy: The Project Polar Permaculture

by: Peter Sant
circular economy  the project polar permaculture | Upload

We've heard about how holistic and nature-inspired permaculture design techniques can green a desert and transform ordinary gardens into ultra-productive 'food forests.' But what about practicing permaculture principles to help grow food in the cold Arctic region is it possible? 

Platic dome from plastic by Polar Permaculture

The Circular Economy Created With The Project: Polar Permaculture

That's something that American-born professional chef and foodie Benjamin Vidmar is exploring with his project, 'Polar Permaculture.' Based out of Longyearbyen, a town of 2,500 that's located on Svalbard, Norway's archipelago of islands (yes, the same place with the so-called doomsday seed vault), Vidmar is experimenting with innovative ways to grow fresh food and creating a 'circular economy' in a rugged, cold place that is dark for three months out of the year, and where most supplies have to be shipped in. 

Man, plants
Benjamin Vidmar, founder of Polar Permaculture Solutions

Vidmar is trained as a professional chef and has worked in hotels and cruise ships around the world. Years ago, he landed a job in one of Longyearbyen's hotels and has stayed there since, raising his family. However, since childhood, Vidmar has always been interested in sustainable agriculture, and a few years ago, he got turned into permaculture, recently getting trained in permaculture design practices.


                                                         Longyearbyen - Polar Permaculture Dome


He's since brought these skills back to Longyearbyen, setting up a geodesic greenhouse, and bringing in red worms to help with composting the locally produced organic waste, which can then be used to grow food here. This is an important point that's not to be taken for granted; on Svalbard, the soil is impoverished and unsuited for growing food, so if it were not for the worms and compost, the soil would have to be shipped in.

Recommended: Sustainable Arctic Architecture: A Geodesic Dome

Equipment in the geodesic green house

On an island where everything is transported in, and waste is either dumped into the ocean or shipped back to the mainland for disposal, Vidmar aims to look for ways to close the loop, reusing and recycling outputs back into inputs whenever possible.

Recommended: Copenhagen's Sustainable Experimental Greenhouse Biotope

I had initially wanted to do a permaculture project in Florida, where I presently spend a month each year, but something told me to do it here in Longyearbyen. There was a massive need for it is as we currently dump all sewage directly into the sea without any treatment facility. We also mine and burn coal. All produce is shipped and flown in, so I believe the place chose me to complete this mission, to help make this place more sustainable.
Surprisingly, one of the biggest obstacles has been local politics: the island is socially conservative and has no agricultural zoning regulations in place. It took Vidmar a year and a half to get permission to import his worms. "So with our permaculture project, we are rewriting all of the history books, looking to change the laws and grow food here once again," says Vidmar.

man, greens, mountains, dome

Currently, Polar Permaculture is the only supplier of fresh, locally produced food on the island, serving all the major hotels and restaurants. The greenhouse is used only when the sun is out, otherwise, they grow their veggies - mostly microgreens, chilies, tomatoes, onions, peas, herbs, and so on - inside their lab, basically a converted room in one of the local hotels. They've also recently set up a small quail farm, and are producing eggs to eat. The future goal is to scale things up, and to increase food security and reduce waste on this remote island, says Vidmar.

hydrophinis lab, plants
Inside the hydroponics lab

Before we started this project, there was no one speaking about composting or having locally grown food. All around the Arctic, many people are farming and growing food, but here we were only relying on shipments. After starting this, we now have much more support to expand and increase what we can produce. We want to install a biogas digester and also set up a system that can process most of the city’s sewage and turn it into biogas that we can use to heat our greenhouses.

Growing food in one of the planet's harshest regions seems like an impossible task, but it appears that through the principles of permaculture, and a lot of dedication, it can be done. Besides growing food, Polar Permaculture offers courses, tours, and gourmet cooking classes. 

Cover photo by Francisco, Mattos

Before you go!

Recommended: New Foodscape Alternatives Gets Lots Of Attention In The Netherlands

Did you find this an interesting article or do you have a question or remark? Leave a comment below. We try to respond the same day.

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Being involved in sustainability activities has changed my view on this subject a lot. Climate change and pollution are borderless and thus solutions and information has to be shared globally. Rich, 'developed' countries have to start supporting countries that don't have the means and knowledge to improve their situation. Sustainability movement is as strong as its weakest link - whatsorb.com is a helpful platform to speed up the X-Change of Global Sustainability.

 

Being involved in sustainability activities has changed my view on this subject a lot. Climate change and pollution are borderless and thus solutions and information has to be shared globally. Rich, 'developed' countries have to start supporting countries that don't have the means and knowledge to improve their situation. Sustainability movement is as strong as its weakest link - whatsorb.com is a helpful platform to speed up the X-Change of Global Sustainability.

 

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Circular Economy: The Project Polar Permaculture

We've heard about how holistic and nature-inspired permaculture design techniques can green a desert and transform ordinary gardens into ultra-productive 'food forests.' But what about practicing permaculture principles to help grow food in the cold Arctic region is it possible?  The Circular Economy Created With The Project: Polar Permaculture That's something that American-born professional chef and foodie Benjamin Vidmar is exploring with his project, 'Polar Permaculture.' Based out of Longyearbyen, a town of 2,500 that's located on Svalbard, Norway's archipelago of islands (yes, the same place with the so-called doomsday seed vault), Vidmar is experimenting with innovative ways to grow fresh food and creating a 'circular economy' in a rugged, cold place that is dark for three months out of the year, and where most supplies have to be shipped in.  Benjamin Vidmar, founder of Polar Permaculture Solutions Vidmar is trained as a professional chef and has worked in hotels and cruise ships around the world. Years ago, he landed a job in one of Longyearbyen's hotels and has stayed there since, raising his family. However, since childhood, Vidmar has always been interested in sustainable agriculture, and a few years ago, he got turned into permaculture, recently getting trained in permaculture design practices. {youtube}                                                          Longyearbyen - Polar Permaculture Dome He's since brought these skills back to Longyearbyen, setting up a geodesic greenhouse, and bringing in red worms to help with composting the locally produced organic waste, which can then be used to grow food here. This is an important point that's not to be taken for granted; on Svalbard, the soil is impoverished and unsuited for growing food, so if it were not for the worms and compost, the soil would have to be shipped in. Recommended:  Sustainable Arctic Architecture: A Geodesic Dome On an island where everything is transported in, and waste is either dumped into the ocean or shipped back to the mainland for disposal, Vidmar aims to look for ways to close the loop, reusing and recycling outputs back into inputs whenever possible. Recommended:  Copenhagen's Sustainable Experimental Greenhouse Biotope I had initially wanted to do a permaculture project in Florida, where I presently spend a month each year, but something told me to do it here in Longyearbyen. There was a massive need for it is as we currently dump all sewage directly into the sea without any treatment facility. We also mine and burn coal. All produce is shipped and flown in, so I believe the place chose me to complete this mission, to help make this place more sustainable. Surprisingly, one of the biggest obstacles has been local politics: the island is socially conservative and has no agricultural zoning regulations in place. It took Vidmar a year and a half to get permission to import his worms. "So with our permaculture project, we are rewriting all of the history books, looking to change the laws and grow food here once again," says Vidmar. Currently, Polar Permaculture is the only supplier of fresh, locally produced food on the island, serving all the major hotels and restaurants. The greenhouse is used only when the sun is out, otherwise, they grow their veggies - mostly microgreens, chilies, tomatoes, onions, peas, herbs, and so on - inside their lab, basically a converted room in one of the local hotels. They've also recently set up a small quail farm, and are producing eggs to eat. The future goal is to scale things up, and to increase food security and reduce waste on this remote island, says Vidmar. Inside the hydroponics lab Before we started this project, there was no one speaking about composting or having locally grown food. All around the Arctic, many people are farming and growing food, but here we were only relying on shipments. After starting this, we now have much more support to expand and increase what we can produce. We want to install a biogas digester and also set up a system that can process most of the city’s sewage and turn it into biogas that we can use to heat our greenhouses. Growing food in one of the planet's harshest regions seems like an impossible task, but it appears that through the principles of permaculture, and a lot of dedication, it can be done. Besides growing food, Polar Permaculture offers courses, tours, and gourmet cooking classes.  Cover photo by Francisco, Mattos Before you go! Recommended:  New Foodscape Alternatives Gets Lots Of Attention In The Netherlands Did you find this an interesting article or do you have a question or remark? Leave a comment below. We try to respond the same day. Like to write your article about growing your own food? Click on  'Register'  or push the button 'Write An Article' on the  'HomePage'.
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