Education and research pave the way for a more self-sufficient Greenland

For the wondering city dweller flying to Narsarsauq, looking down on the large white rolls in the fields can be a mystery. But the rolls hold Greenland’s dream of becoming more self-sufficient


By Uffe Wilken, Polarfronten


Why should Greenlandic consumers settle for imported foodstuffs that can be both expensive and not very appetizing? In a few years, they won’t have to if it is up to Greenlandic politicians. The politicians have a vision for increasing the Greenlandic self-provision of selected foodstuffs.


To eat a piece of oneself

Over the last few years, a lot of attention has been paid to food and the Greenlandic kitchen’s use of local foodstuffs with initiatives such as FoodLab Greenland and NERISA – an Arctic Food Cluster. Food is obviously central to everybody, but in Greenland food does not only mean something on the plate. As newly appointed Chairwoman of the Agricultural Council Natuk Lund Olsen puts it:


Kalaalimernit means Greenlandic food. Figuratively speaking it means ‘a piece of Greenlander’. You eat a piece of yourself. It’s a really strong identity marker especially if you consider it the way the concept is applied here in Greenland.”

To get more local produce, someone needs to produce it. Shepherds in southern Greenland supply sheep, lamb, potatoes, and some vegetables such as turnips. And in 2019 Greenlandic Greenhouse – a foodstuffs start-up – began delivering fresh salad to most of Nuuk’s restaurants and supermarkets. But farming must be developed to secure increased self-supply which led the former Greenlandic government to adopt ‘Strategy for Agriculture 2021-2030’ in December of 2020. The strategy contains nine goals which the Agricultural Council is now pushing to get started.


On the priorities of tasks, Natuk Lund Olsen comments:


“In general, there’s been focus on agriculture and self-sufficiency from both the government and the people. In the Council, we call on using sheep training as the core to start from. We know this is going to take time, but the education should be made more attractive, otherwise there won’t be anyone to take over the farms or establish new farms.”

The education as sheep farmer is a three-year vocational education offered by Food College Greenland in Narsaq. It includes both animal farming and horticulture. Part of this education takes place in either the north of Norway or in Iceland, as well as one year at the agricultural school in Upernaviarsuk. The school is a bit isolated, roughly seven kilometers from Qaqortoq, and has room for six students. In the last few years, only three students a year have been enrolled. As part of the reform of the education, the intention is that the school should be upgraded since the facilities are worn out. Natuk Lund Olsen says:


“We want to encourage the government to evaluate whether Inuili should still be in charge of the sheep farming education since it seems like there’s a long way between the school and the institution on a number of different levels.”

Salad in the trash can

Sheep and lamb must have something to eat. And now we are finally ready to unveil what hides in the big, white rolls in Narsarsuaq and other places in southern Greenland. Hay. Between 30% and up to 60% of the feed is imported, depending on the local harvest. Increasing the amount of self-produced hay will be a significant contribution. It could, for example, be by mowing grass twice a year, as only a few farmers do today. Through the last three years, University of Aarhus, Pinngortitaleriffik (Greenland Institute of Natural Resources) and the agricultural school have experimented with different types of grass and use of glacial flour as a supplement to fertilizers and limestone on the fields of Upernaviarsuk. Seaweed has also been tried as a fertilizer. All initiatives taken to find alternative methods to increase the yield.


Experiments are not limited to Upernaviarsuk. In September of 2021, Greenlandic Greenhouse was nominated for the Nordic Council’s Environment Prize because “… Greenlandic Greenhouse produce local foodstuffs in an environmental- and climate-friendly way that supports a more sustainable food system in Greenland.”


Co-owner of Greenlandic Greenhouse explains to KNR that should the company win the Environment Prize, they aim to start growing even more vegetables – tomatoes, strawberries, cucumbers, and mushrooms. But until then they will focus on salads and herbs. And as Natuk Lund Olsen says:


“We can now buy fresh salad in the supermarket at half the price of imported salad – and it tastes even better.”


Contact: Natuk Lund Olsen


Source: The Agricultural Council (accessed August 20, 2021)


Links: FoodLab Greenland


The sheep farming profession is developing positively (Fåreholdererhvervet er i positiv udvikling 

Sermitsiaq, 21. juli 2021)


Download “Strategi for Landbrug” in Danish/Greenlandic here.

Strategi for Landbrug 2021-2030 (accessed August 20, 2021).


Greenlandic Greenhouse 

This article is part of a theme issue of Polarfronten about Arctic Hub. The issue has been made as a collaboration between Arctic Hub and Polarfronten.

About the Agricultural Council: The Agricultural Council is an advisory body for Naalakkersuisut on questions regarding agriculture
The Agricultural Council handles specific tasks delegated by Naalakkersuisut and may provide opinions to Naalakkersuisut about new initiatives within the regulation of agriculture in Greenland. In addition, the Agricultural Council can raise issues relating to agriculture that do not require further processing in the Naalakkersuisut
Source: The Agricultural Council (accessed August 20, 2021)
Upernaviarsuk, winter 2021 photo: Natuk Lund Olsen
Greenhouse tunnel, Upernaviarsuk, 2014 archive: Uffe Wilken
Upernaviarsuk, 2014 archive: Uffe Wilken
Greenhouse, Upernaviarsuk archive: Uffe Wilken
NERISA – an Arctic food cluster screenshot: Uffe Wilken
Sheep, Upernaviarsuk video: Natuk Lund Olsen