This year, my family and I detoured from the typical warm weather spring break in order to visit Iceland. We explored the country’s many natural wonders in order to continue the job of STEM-brainwashing our daughters. The activities we tackled included swimming in hot springs, feeling the spray of a geyser, walking on a Glacier, exploring a black sand beach, and hiking along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet.

We anticipated that the natural wonders would amaze us – and they did not disappoint. But what we did not anticipate is that one of our favorite stops would be an unplanned visit to Fridheimar for a tomato-themed lunch in a greenhouse.

Upon arriving at Fridheimar, we were greeted by the owner who provided an overview of how his family grows tomatoes year round in Iceland by using the latest horticulture technology, green energy, pure water, and organic pest controls.

I totally geeked out as he explained the growing process, which includes:

  • Using the country’s abundant supply of geothermal water to heat the greenhouses.
  • Taking advantage of Iceland’s pure, cold drinking water to irrigate the plants.
  • Powering the artificial lighting with “green” electricity from hydro and geothermal power plants.
  • Utilizing the carbon dioxide from natural geothermal steam to enhance photosynthesis.
  • Managing pests organically with the predatory mirid bug Macrolophus pygmaeus, which devours all the main pests that afflict tomato plants.
  • Monitoring and controlling temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, and lighting via computer systems that can be programmed and adjusted remotely via the owners’ mobile phones!
  • Using 600+ bumblebees at a time to naturally pollinate the plants.

And on top of managing this complicated growing process, the owners operate a restaurant in one of the greenhouses. At the restaurant they serve their fresh grown tomatoes in creative homemade dishes that include soup, bloody marys, and a tomato/strawberry ice cream topping. I am not a huge tomato fan but loved everything I tried.

At this point you might be thinking ‘Is Laura trying to change Couragion’s corporate blog into a travel blog?’. The answer is no! But during my tour it dawned on me that Icelandic tomatoes offer an excellent way to make Next Gen Science Standards (NGSS) come alive for students. So in my next couple of blog posts, I will share hands-on lesson plans that use what I learned during my greenhouse tour to show students the real-world applicability of what they are learning in school. Check back later this week for lesson 1!

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