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Inupiat community above Alaska's Arctic Circle grows basil

Inupiat community above Alaska's Arctic Circle grows basilThe landscape is virtually treeless around a coastal hub town above Alaska's Arctic Circle, where even summer temperatures are too cold for northern-growing forests to take root.

Amid these unforgiving conditions, a creative kind of farming is sprouting up in the largely Inupiat community of Kotzebue.

A subsidiary of a local Native corporation is using hydroponics technology to grow produce inside an insulated, 40-foot shipping container equipped with glowing magenta LED lights. Arctic Greens is harvesting kale, various lettuces, basil and other greens weekly from the soil-free system and selling them at the supermarket in the community of nearly 3,300.

The venture is first of its kind north of the Arctic Circle, according to the manufacturer of Kotzebue's pesticide-free system. The goal is to set up similar systems in partnerships with other rural communities far from Alaska's minimal road system — where steeply priced vegetables can be more than a week in transit and past their prime by the time they arrive at local stores.

Anchorage-based Vertical Harvest Hydroponics, which builds enclosed systems out of transformed shipping containers, partnered with Kikiktagruk. The 2-year-old company also sold the system to a farmer in the rural town of Dillingham.
Inupiat community above Alaska's Arctic Circle grows basil

"Our vision is that this can be a long-term solution to the food shortage problems in the north," said Ron Perpich, a company founder. "We're hoping that we can put systems anywhere that there're people."
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