It’s autumn in Akureyri. The foliage on the forested hill behind Hótel Akureyri creates a copper-golden backdrop for the stately black-and-white building in the oldest part of town. The seasonal harvest is over, and soon enough, winter will arrive.
Yet eternal summer is imminent at this hotel in the high north. Workers are busy setting up Akureyri’s first high-tech greenhouse inside a most unusual place—the hotel’s old laundry room, which was a box factory before that. Giacomo Montanelli from Italy is fixing old freezing pans sourced from a fish factory in the East Fjords with tubes. These pans will be placed in racks on many levels and filled with water in which various herbs, sprouts, and leafy greens will grow.
Daníel Smárason is the entrepreneur behind Urban Farm Akureyri. He runs Hótel Akureyri with his family. After buying the hotel in 2012, day-to-day operations kept them busy, and the pandemic came as a bit of a breather. “It gave us time to pause and think: ‘How can we make this a better hotel? What is our specialty?’ And we came up with this combination of hotel and greenhouse farming. We want to tell our guests the sustainability story and serve them food grown using renewable energy—in a country where the entire cycle is environmentally friendly.”
“It will be a fully automated farm,” Daníel excitedly says. There is no soil to be found at Urban Farm Akureyri. Instead, they are implementing a hydroponic system where water is continuously circulated. The plants float in water, and fans keep the water moving to prevent mold growth. The electricity for lighting and power is from sustainable hydropower.
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