Year’s First Outdoor-Grown Vegetables Harvested

The year’s first crop of outdoor-cultivated vegetables to has been harvested and will be appearing on local grocery store shelves in abundance by the end of the month, RÚV reports. Major summer crops include cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Outdoor-grown produce in Iceland is naturally subject to the whims of the country’s famously unpredictable weather. Given the local climate and the profusion of geothermal heat, greenhouses are favoured for much of the country’s locally grown produce. There are currently between twenty and thirty farmers who grow potatoes outdoors; roughly the same number cultivate vegetables outside. As a rule, the first summer harvest is in mid-July.

“Cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli, then potatoes—they usually come in the middle of July,” explains Helgi Jóhannesson, a consultant for the Icelandic Agricultural Advisory Centre. “Then carrots and beets come later. They take longer to grow, so usually, at the beginning of August.”

Imported vegetables still account for the majority of produce on Icelandic shelves, but summertime, particularly after Merchant’s Weekend at the beginning of August, sees a dramatic increase in the availability of locally grown vegetables.

“It’s obviously clear that it’s much better than importing vegetables and people are excited about it—I always find it a rather festive occasion when [Icelandic-grown produce] has finally arrived again,” continues Helgi, who says that this year’s first summer harvest bodes well for the rest of the outdoor growing season.

“Farmers Are Drowning in Data”

icelandic cows

Technology is playing an increasingly large role in the Icelandic farming and agriculture landscape, RÚV reports. According to Sigtryggur Veigar Herbertsson, a consultant with the Icelandic Agricultural Advisory Centre (RML), farmers around the country have already started making use of such technological innovations as automated milking machines, GPS trackers on sheep, and self-driving tractors. Automated feeding machines have also started making an appearance in barns around the country.

Technologies such as GPS water management systems are becoming increasingly important to farmers as they deal with climate change and its consequences, such as drought, Sigtryggur says. But while there is a comparatively high proportion of technologies such as automated milking machines in use in Iceland, says Sigtryggur, Icelandic farmers still “…lag a little behind in drone and soil cultivation technology.” There are companies in Iceland that use drones to detect and map vegetation around the country, but this technology has not yet been used for agricultural purposes in Iceland. By contrast, in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, drones are often used to map out routes for self-driving tractors and to spread different quantities of fertiliser according to the needs of various crops.

The technological devices that are already in use in Iceland are also collecting enormous amounts of data that has yet to be fully exploited by farmers. This data could potentially be of use in improving agriculture practices says Sigtryggur, but as of yet, it has proven difficult for farmers to parse effectively. “Farmers are drowning in data,” he remarked, explaining that RML is in the process of going through this excess of information. Much of it comes from milking machines, says Sigtryggur, and he’s hopeful that this wealth of information can be made usable for farmers in the near future.