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Greenhouse on Nipissing First Nation will help address lettuce shortage

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Nipissing First Nation is eagerly awaiting the launch of a new greenhouse project.

The Mnogin Greenhouse, located on Jocko Point Road, will be open next year and will grow lettuce and other leafy greens.

The trailers are in place. All they need is the hydro and water connection and it will be open for business.

"Things are moving along as quickly as they can. I have a meeting with hydro next week and hoping to get a timeline," said Gen Couchie, Nipissing First Nation's business operations manager.

This project has been in the works for about six years. Three trailers will used to grow produce, while a fourth will be used for packaging and distribution.

The growth cycle rotation takes approximately 4-6 weeks. It's estimated the greenhouse will grow 15,000 kg of lettuce, herbs and other leafy greens annually.

"So we'll actually be able to push out 75,000 heads of lettuce per container," said greenhouse manager Mackenzie Jones.

"So that's about 225,000 heads of lettuce."

The greenhouse is hydroponic, which will allow the products to grow at a much faster rate. Chief Scott McLeod sees the project's potential as a training tool for other northern Ontario First Nations looking to address food insecurity.

"That requires cost-effective access to vegetables and healthy food products," he said.

"Coming out of COVID, we saw the prices and the effects of recession on accessing healthy food choices."

With a current shortage of lettuce in grocery stores and restaurants, the venture is seen as a big opportunity to supply local businesses needing the greens.

"We have a number of programs that would benefit from this including a diner's club, good food boxes, a nutritionist on staff and the distribution to restaurants," said Couchie.

The greenhouse will create two new jobs. If the project grows, more hands will be needed. 

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