Greenhouse invented by a Japanese company allows what's often called the coldest city on earth to grow tomatoes when temperatures drop to -50 Celsius, as Francis Maguire reports.
Yakutsk in Siberia is one of the coldest cities in the world. During the freezing winter months it averages a temperature of minus 34 degrees Celcius with only five hours of daylight. That means crops can't be grown in the frozen soil. But local authorities now believe they've found a way around that. They've teamed up with Japanese firm Hokkaido Corporation to build greenhouses with special technology. The local mayor hopes the project will go a long way to providing the fruit and veg needed by Yakutsk's people. SOUNDBITE (Russian) YAKUTSK MAYOR, AISEN NIKOLAEV, SAYING: "When the entire infrastructure is ready, when the first and the second of the greenhouses are complete and we reach full capacity, then we plan to harvest around 1700 tonnes of cucumbers, more than 600 tonnes of tomatoes and around 25 tonnes of greens which should satisfy about 30-40 percent of the Yakutsk population's needs." The greenhouses are specially designed to withstand the extreme cold. Three layers of a thin film made from rubber with thermal insulation properties are used. SOUNDBITE (Russian) YAKUTSK MAYOR, AISEN NIKOLAEV, SAYING: "It is three times thinner, but at the same time it can be stretched widely. It takes seven tonnes of weight per square metre piece for the film to break. And of course it has unique thermal insulation qualities and it lets the sunlight through better than ordinary glass. Just three layers of this thinnest film managed to last through this winter with temperatures dropping below minus 50 Celsius." Until now most produce had to be transported from Russia's Krasnodor region or imported from China. But now, if the technology proves a success, the tomatoes won't have to travel too far to feed Yakutsk.