Cold Climate Greenhouse


New Dawn Enterprises, in collaboration with Eskasoni First Nation community, has designed and constructed an innovative 1800 square foot Cold Climate Greenhouse (CCG) facility in Sydney River, Cape Breton. Part of the innovation of the design is derived from a newly developed infrared heating system that will mean: (1) significant energy cost savings and efficiencies; (2) a longer local growing season so as to enhance local food production; and (3) improved produce affordability, quality and nutrition.

Eskasoni First Nation

Part of the impetus for the project stems from the nutrition-related health challenges facing the people of Eskasoni First Nation:

  • Eskasoni’s incidence of both obesity and diabetes is four times the provincial average.
  • The Eskasoni reserve is highly limited by its land base. The reserve consists of a narrow strip of land bordered on one side by the Bras d’Or Lakes and on the other by a large mountain. There is little to no arable land on the narrow strip.
  • Eskasoni has a young and growing population. It is, in fact, the largest Mi’kmaq community in Atlantic Canada with a population of 4,000. Given this growing population, much of their remaining available land is used for housing and infrastructure.
  • Eskasoni shares with all of Cape Breton (and indeed with all subarctic climates) a short, inconsistent and unreliable growing season.

These challenges point to a need to initiate a new approach to food production and consumption. The CCG will enable this community to be more deeply engaged in the production of fresh produce as a year round and affordable activity. Providing the residents of Eskasoni with some control over the selection, planting and harvesting of food will, in turn, go a long way to transforming the health of the community.

At the same time, many of these health and agricultural challenges affect the entire population of Cape Breton Island and populations around the world. The applications for, and implications of, Cold Climate Greenhouses are thus far reaching.

The Greenhouse Today

To date, an 1800 square foot pilot greenhouse has been constructed and the infrared heating system has been installed. The next stage involves a year-long research cycle that will monitor and measure heat efficiencies and crop production. This research will be aimed at showing:

  • that traditional heating costs can be reduced by at least 50%;
  • that temperatures in the greenhouse will not fall below 7 degrees Celsius in the winter; and
  • that the productivity and quality of produce grown represents a 20% improvement over that of a standard greenhouse of comparable size.

Ultimately, this phase of research and testing seeks to demonstrate that high quality produce can be grown in a Cold Climate Greenhouse at an affordable cost.

The Greenhouse Tomorrow

Although the 1800 square foot pilot greenhouse has been developed in collaboration with Eskasoni First Nation, the greenhouse planning team aspires to see successful Cold Climate Greenhouses address the fresh produce needs of all communities between 45 and 70 degrees latitude.  The second phase of the project, following the two year pilot, will be the construction, testing and three year operation of a 10,000 square foot Cold Climate Greenhouse.

Test Plant Varieties for Year One (2012)

Bouquet DillKaleidoscope Swiss ChardGreen Arrow Peas
Harris Model ParsnipTatsoi Oriental GreenLong Tokyo Onion
Sardinia SpinachMatina Sweet LettuceAnnapolis Lettuce
Little Gem Pearl LettuceZesty Mesclun MixBaby Leaf Blend
Blue Curled Scotch KaleAunt Molly’s Ground CherrySuper Red 80 Cabbage
Arcadia BroccoliScarlet Runner BeanGold Rush Bean
Ildi TomatoScotia TomatoVeronica Cauliflower

Greenhouse Team

  • Ora McManus – Engineer, Priest, Team Leader
  • Paul Patterson – Consultant, Syncom Strategic Planning Associates
  • Al Forgeron – Engineer, Designer (FIRST system – Forgeron Infrared System Technology)
  • Richard (Buddy) Young – Teacher, Eskasoni Band Council Representative
  • George MacNeil – Contractor, Eskasoni Band Council
  • Donny MacLellan – Businessman (retired), Farmer
  • Maggie English – Plant Biologist, Greenhouse Manager
  • Clifford Crompton – Research Botanist, Federal Department of Agriculture (retired)
  • Alina Crompton – Research Botanist, Federal Department of Agriculture (retired)
  • Leroy Denny – Chief, Eskasoni First Nation
  • Allan Sampson – CFO, Eskasoni Band Council
  • Rankin MacSween, President, New Dawn Enterprises