Biology student share experiences from internships in the Arctic
Biology student share experiences from internships in the Arctic

Growing greens in the Arctic

Ola Kristensen
Ola Kristensen

Me and my background

My name is Ola, and I´m from a small town in the south-east of Norway. I study Ecology and Wildlife Management at the University of South-Eastern Norway, USN, in a town called Bø. I´ve been working as a marine engineer onboard different types of ships for quite a few years, but two years ago I decided to do something completely different. I´ve always had an interest in nature, so I decided to start studying natural sciences. My Bachelor program mainly consists of biology, but also other subjects such as geology and climate studies are part of the program. This semester I´ll be studying at UNIS on Svalbard, where my subjects will be arctic environmental management and an internship in arctic biology.


I have an internship with Polar Permaculture, a small company growing microgreens and herbs in Longyearbyen. I´ve met Benjamin and Hege who are running the company, and we´ve discussed my tasks. I´ll be part of the daily operations, and in addition to that, I will do test growing. My goals are to make improvements in plant growth and quality and to try producing other types of herbs and salads than is currently being grown. Benjamin founded the company many years ago, and he has tried out many different types of greens and methods of growing them, but luckily he´ll let me do some more testing.

My experience

My experience in growing plants is very limited, I have more of a theoretical background in biology and plant ecology. That´s the reason why I wanted this internship: to gain practical knowledge, and to put theory into practice. The permaculture process is very interesting, and especially managing to make it work as far north as on Svalbard. I expect to learn a lot and to be able to use this knowledge later on in my career and perhaps for myself at home.

Projects and research

Polar Permaculture had a feasibility study done in 2019 on the environmental-, health- and economic aspects of growing greens locally here I Longyearbyen, and the results were positive. After presenting the study, other companies have shown an interest in collaborating with Polar Permaculture, and now the company is planning to expand. The company has also become part of a large-scale EU-funded European research project called FoodE (, looking to accelerate the growth of citizen-led City/Region food systems (CRFS). I´m lucky to get the opportunity to work in a company where there are many exciting projects going on, and where my efforts most likely will make a difference.

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