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Growing tomatoes as the cold hits minus 45C. Impossible? Not in Yakutsk

By Olga Gertcyk
24 February 2017

The world's only all-year greenhouse built on permafrost sells its first crop, and locals are impressed.

Using Japanese technology, the hothouse paves the way for a revolution in vital agricultural production in northern latitudes. Picture: Ykt.ru

The first batch of some 36 kg of tomatoes sold out in two hours at the Ilin Ener grocery in Yakutsk, the planet's coldest city. 

When it reaches full capacity, the $21.7 million operation will annually produce 470 tons of tomatoes, 1,692 tons of cucumbers and 28 tons of lettuce and other culinary plants.

Using Japanese technology, the hothouse paves the way for a revolution in vital agricultural production in northern latitudes. The pioneering Hokkaido Corporation, which is behind the project,  says Russia is ripe for 'smart agriculture'.

The all-year greenhouse complex in Yakutsk is designed to keep on producing tomatoes - and later cucumbers, lettuce and herbs - no matter how cold it gets outside. 

Tomatoes

The first batch of some 36 kg of tomatoes sold out in two hours at the Ilin Ener grocery in Yakutsk. Picture: Ykt.ru

On a day when it was minus 45C outside, the inside thermometer showed a balmy 19.9C. Three layers of film in the greenhouse keep the warmth and transmit 94% of sunlight. 

Until now Yakutsk has relied on produce delivered from Krasnodar region - some 5,750 kilometres away - or Chinese imports, which some claim are of inferior quality.

Aisen Nikolaev, the mayor of Yakutsk, said: 'When I first heard that you can grow greenhouse vegetables in large quantities in Yakutsk winter, with temperatures dropping to minus 40-50 degrees Celsius, I just smiled skeptically. 

'When I saw the calculations and economic justification of the project, I began pondering the idea. And after I met with Japanese engineers, I believed that it was possible.'

Greenhouse outside


Greenhouse inside

Three layers of film in the greenhouse keep the warmth and transmit 94% of sunlight. Pictures: Ykt.ru, Greentalk

In December he collected the first tomato from the Sayuri experimental complex in the village of Syrdakh.

He said: 'This project can already be called successful because it is now minus 45C outside and various sorts of tomatoes are growing inside. The most important feature to be proud of is the amount of nitrates. An acceptable amount is 300 mg per kg.

'Chinese tomatoes have nearly 300. Russian [tomatoes] from from elsewhere in the country - 80-100 mg per kg. Yet Syrdakh's tomatoes have 17-22 mg per kg, just like in Japan. That means that the products are truly ecologically clean, which is good for the health of children and adults.' 

Sayuri is based in the Kangalassy advanced development territory, which offers preferential terms for investors and residents. 

Aisen Nikolaev

In December Aisen Nikolayev collected the first tomato from the Sayuri experimental complex in the village of Syrdakh. Picture: YSIA

In March 2016, Hokkaido Corporation, the Yakutsk city administration and regional bank, Almazergienbank, signed an investment agreement for the construction of greenhouses on an area of 3.3 hectares.

The project is expected to become profitable in six years. So far the greenhouse covers one hectare, but will be expanded by 2020.

Natural conditions and the availability of fossil resources make Russia an optimal country for the development of so-called smart agricultural industry, said the director general of  the Hokkaido Corporation, Yukio Temma.

'Russia is resource-rich in the form of natural gas and biomass, its vast territory is the best country for the development of 'smart agriculture',' he said.

'Together with the project on establishment of greenhouses and polytunnels we want to offer the leading cities of Russia the concept of smart agricultural city.'

Mayor in greenhouse


Tomatoes

'This project can already be called successful because it is now minus 45C outside and various sorts of tomatoes are growing inside.' Pictures: Yakutsk.ru

The concept represents 'a synthesis in infrastructure technologies with very different profiles of major Japanese companies, agricultural technologies for cold regions, since this is the strong point of small and medium business of Hokkaido', he said.

'In this concept, a source of power generation are natural gas, natural energy, waste and sewage. At the same time comes the heat and CO2 in greenhouses.'

By 2025, the facility will be able to provide the population of Yakutsk and neighbouring settlements with cucumbers by 56.4%, with tomatoes by 15.7%, with potherbs by 8%.

Comments (7)

I am interested to set-up in Russia (with Siberia preference) a) Vegetable Greenhouses + b) Kidney Dialysis Centers. Local city enterprising persons may contact me at: rajat.roy.ca@gmail.com and discuss cooperation.
Rajat Roy, Montreal, Canada
15/03/2017 02:19
1
0
Congratulations!!!!
Arturo, Ireland
02/03/2017 22:44
2
0
In Yakutia, no geysers. Heat without cost only in Spain from the sun.
Construction of geothermal power station, drilling is not free.
Pipeline infrastructure from geothermal power station to heated objects not free.
It's cheaper than gas heat, but not for free.
ED, Russia
28/02/2017 21:18
3
0
Agriculture in the Kamchatka peninsula is easier given the huge presence of thermal waters. I don´t know if there are thermal waters also in Yakutia but they can provide heat without cost.
Enrique, Spain
28/02/2017 19:42
1
0
this is nothing new, when i was working Siberia on the Jennisei we also paid a visit to NORILSK. And more or less right next to us we saw many dilapidated hot houses.we were told that during the CCCP times, these hot houses were heated with hot water from the factories and smelters. so the people of Norilsk did have fresh Vegetables, Salad and Strawberries also in the deepest winter. While even in Moscow there was a - defizit - of these things. Came democracy and the change, no one was interested in the hothouses anymore. and they fell into disuse. a sad story.
Benedikt MORAK, Moscow
28/02/2017 10:03
3
0
One thing for sure, growing tomato's with it cold outside, there would never be any big green tomato horn worms, eating the leaves of the plants.
Darwin, USA
28/02/2017 08:08
3
0
Congratulations! Excellent initiative and technology. that is the way ahead. It is amazing that the business is going to be profitable. Still people need fresh vegetables and local products lowers the carbondioxide emissions.
William McLean, Copenhagen, Denmark
27/02/2017 18:46
4
1
1

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