The FriÃ°heimar greenhouse in Reykholt, Iceland; photo by Ashlyn G.
How tomatoes are grown in Iceland in a highly sustainable greenhouse
It may seem strange to see a fruit (or is it a vegetable?) Generally associated with a temperate climate growing a few kilometers south of the Arctic Circle; however, this is what happens in Iceland with tomatoes.
First of all, the answer to the above question is that tomatoes are fruits, and more specifically the berries of the Solanum lycopersicum plant. The tomato is native to Central America, but has historically been widely cultivated in temperate regions of North America, Southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Its cultivation has never been very successful in Northern Europe, mainly because the tomato plant experiences temperatures below 10C / 50F and requires a warm climate and lots of sun to ripen properly.
Tomatoes are therefore not a traditional product of Iceland; it is indeed impossible to grow them outdoors on the island; it’s just too cold. Yet the Icelanders have found an ingenious solution to eating a locally produced Mediterranean-style salad: building greenhouses. It has been since at least the 1920s that various species of edible fruits and vegetables have been cultivated in Iceland’s geothermally heated greenhouses, including tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, peppers and strawberries.
One of the best examples of this agricultural know-how is the FriÃ°heimar greenhouse in Reykholt, a village in southwest Iceland.
Founded by KnÃºtur Rafn Ãrmann and Helena HermundardÃ³ttir in 1995 and specializing in tomato production, FriÃ°heimar is just one of many greenhouse farms in Iceland; nevertheless, it has become particularly famous because it is one of the few open to visit all year round, as well as for its varied program of events and activities. Committed to sustainable and environmentally friendly horticulture, the farm also includes a restaurant, Icelandic horse stables and an equestrian arena.
The The FriÃ°heimar greenhouse accommodates around 10,000 tomato plants,
A red cherry tomato plant in the FriÃ°heimar greenhouse; in total, the farm produces 370 tons of tomatoes per year; photo Ãric Kilby.
A view of the farm nursery.
In FriÃ°heimar, around 10,000 plants produce around one tonne of tomatoes per day, 365 days a year, on a cultivated area of ââ4,200 square meters.
The farmhouse greenhouses and the 300mÂ² nursery are heated by hot geothermal water, which Iceland is famous for its abundance. To grow vegetables all year round, natural lighting is integrated by an artificial lighting system mainly based on high intensity discharge lamps, powered by the 42 hydroelectric and geothermal plants on the island.
The farm’s geothermal heating system. Heated by geothermal water and powered entirely by electricity from renewable energy sources, FriÃ°heimar has one of the most sustainable greenhouses in the world. Photo by Ashlen G.
Computers monitor the temperature and humidity in greenhouses and take care of the watering and fertilization schedule; photo by SheepRUs.
On the farm, computers monitor the temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide and lighting in each greenhouse; When the sunlight inside the greenhouses reaches a sufficient level, the artificial lighting is automatically turned off. The computers are also connected to an irrigation system which waters and fertilizes the crop according to a predefined schedule.
Pest control is pesticide free and based on organic methods and beneficial insects such as the predatory mirid bug Macrolophus pygmaeus. Insects, especially honey bees, are also used to help pollinate tomato flowers.
The FriÃ°heimar farm also has a restaurant specializing in tomato-based recipes (what else?) (Including Bloody Mary, of course).
The farm restaurant opens directly onto the main greenhouse; photo Pierre-Selim Huard.
The menu mainly offers cooking recipes based on tomatoes, many of which are inspired by Mediterranean cuisines, in particular Spanish and Italian; photo by Rajesh_India.
Photo CC Chapman.