SP0145: Bellairs Research Institute Greenhouse

Status: COMPLETED Summer 2015 - Summer 2016

The Bellairs Research Institute Greenhouse project involves the construction of a sustainable tropical greenhouse at McGill’s Barbadian Campus. This greenhouse will be used to produce fruits, vegetables and other native edible plants for use in food production at the Institute.


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Bellairs Research Institute is a McGill University facility located at Folkestone, Barbados. It hosts many students and scientists from McGill and around the world for field courses, workshops and research projects. The Institute currently boasts an on-site Slow Food Heritage Garden that was created by two 2014 McGill Barbados Field Study Semester (BFSS) students in collaboration with their mentor from the Barbados Organic Growers and Consumers Association (OGCA). This Garden serves as an ongoing agro-ecological project and exhibition site. This project’s goal is to further enhance the sustainable produce production on the campus to help provide fresh, healthy and local produce for students, researchers, professors and visitors alike. The site will be a location for students to learn and to impart knowledge for local agriculture, plant science, horticulture, construction and teamwork.

The Bellairs Research Institute prepares two or three meals a day during the week for the residents and students on the campus. The food bill is substantial and has averaged around $127,000 (BD) per year for the campus. Over 50% of the food is sourced on the island but a very large percentage comes from outside Barbados, yet, a large portion of this is fruits and vegetables that could be grown locally using a greenhouse. Although perceived as a region favorable for produce growth, due to high heat, pests and high sun intensity, the fields of Barbados are in fact very harsh for fruit, vegetable and leafy-green production. Crops however thrive on the island in protected structures such as greenhouses. Localized and sustainable food production is of critical benefit for isolated agricultural economies such as that of Barbados, for food security, and availability of healthy and fresh produce.

This project will introduce a sustainable and affordable solution to this local food production issue, using cutting-edge designs and concepts developed by McGill students working directly with local Barbadian agronomists, farmers, backyard gardeners, and research personnel.

Funds from the SPF will be used to build a sustainable tropical greenhouse at the Bellairs Research Institute using the expertise of Dr. Mark Lefsrud and Lucas McCartney, a Ph.D. student in Bioresource Engineering at the Macdonald Campus. A shade-house has been constructed as part of the overall project at Bellairs for the culturing and display of native Barbadian plants that are mostly edible. The costs for constructing the shade house, rainwater harvesting system, alternative energy sources, and irrigation systems was in the order of $12,000 (BBD) for materials and labour. These costs represent a counterpart contribution by Bellairs to the holistic development of the site, including the proposed greenhouse.

The specific design of the tropical greenhouse is an innovative design. Mr. McCartney and Dr. Lefsrud successfully built their greenhouse design for research purposes in cooperation with BITS students in 2014 on a commercial cucumber farm near Bellairs. The novel-design greenhouse to be built at Bellairs will use minimum energy and resources. The greenhouse will be entirely off-grid with electricity coming from the recently installed Bellairs Research Institute’s photovoltaic system. Water will be provided sustainably from rainwater harvesting. The size of the structure is 4.5m by 9m and fits in the space available at Bellairs. It is perfectly suitable to supply the kitchen’s cooking staff needs and provide the visitors to the campus with fresh produce.

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Agricultural and Environmental Science/Bioresource Engineering

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mark.lefsrud [at] mcgill.ca (Mark Lefsrud)

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