1. bookVolume 10 (2018): Issue 4 (December 2018)
Journal Details
First Published
24 Feb 2009
Publication timeframe
4 times per year
access type Open Access

Greenhouse Agriculture in the Icelandic Food System

Published Online: 11 Jan 2019
Page range: 711 - 724
Received: 18 May 2017
Accepted: 28 Jun 2018
Journal Details
First Published
24 Feb 2009
Publication timeframe
4 times per year

Greenhouses are a frequent feature on the Icelandic rural landscape and an integral part of Iceland’s food system. Iceland’s reserves of geothermal energy present an opportunity to extend an otherwise short growing season. This promotes sustainability, increases food security, and benefits consumers. This article examines the relative strengths of Iceland’s greenhouse sector - using a combination of statistics, observations, and interviews to understand the resource demands of greenhouse agriculture, how well greenhouses can allay some food insecurity and provide local foods. It ends with an examination of how the reduction of subsidies used to keep greenhouse agriculture going, has had an effect and forces the question of whether losing much of Iceland’s agricultural sector and locally sourced food is worth the social and political costs.


[1] Alessa, L., Kliskey, A., Lammers, R., Arp, C., White, D., Hinzman, L. & Busey, R. (2008). The Arctic water resource vulnerability index: An integrated assessment tool for community resilience and vulnerability with respect to freshwater. Environmental Management 42(3), 523-541. DOI: 10.1007/s00267-008-9152-0.10.1007/s00267-008-9152-0Open DOISearch in Google Scholar

[2] Arason, S. (2003). Utilization of fish byproducts in Iceland. Advances in Seafood Byproducts, 47-66.Search in Google Scholar

[3] Arnalds, Ó. & Ármannsson, H. (1999). Soils and soil erosion in Iceland. Geochemistry of the Earth's Surface (pp. 135-139). Boca Raton: CRC Press.Search in Google Scholar

[4] Arnalds, Ó., Þorarinsdóttir, E. F., Metusalemsson, S., Jonsson, A., Gretarsson, E. & Arnason, A. (2001). Soil erosion in Iceland. Agricultural Research Institute, Soil Conservation Service, Reykjavík, Iceland.Search in Google Scholar

[5] Arnalds, A. (2005). Approaches to landcare-a century of soil conservation in Iceland. Land Degradation & Development 16(2), 113-125. DOI: 10.1002/ldr.665.10.1002/ldr.665Open DOISearch in Google Scholar

[6] Bailes, A. J. & Jóhannsson, O. (2011). Food security in Iceland. Stjórnmál og stjórnsýsla, 7(2), 491-509.Search in Google Scholar

[7] Barbosa, G. L., Gadelha, F. D. A., Kublik, N., Proctor, A., Reichelm, L., Weissinger, E., Wohlleb, G. M. & Halden, R. U. (2015). Comparison of land, water, and energy requirements of lettuce grown using hydroponic vs. conventional agricultural methods. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12(6), 6879-6891. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph120606879.10.3390/ijerph120606879Open DOISearch in Google Scholar

[8] Boyes, R. (2009). Meltdown Iceland: How the Global Financial Crisis Bankrupted an Entire Country. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.Search in Google Scholar

[9] Fader, M., Gerten, D., Krause, M., Lucht, W. & Cramer, W. (2013). Spatial decoupling of agricultural production and consumption: Quantifying dependences of countries on food imports due to domestic land and water constraints. Environmental Research Letters 8(1), 1-15. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/1/014046.10.1088/1748-9326/8/1/014046Open DOISearch in Google Scholar

[10] Fountain, H. (2017). Vikings Razed the Forests. Can Iceland Regrow Them? New York Times Oct 20, 2017.Search in Google Scholar

[11] Gudmundsson, M. T., Pedersen, R., Vogfjörd, K., Thorbjarnardóttir, B., Jakobsdóttir, S. & Roberts, M. J. (2010). Eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull Volcano, Iceland. Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union 91(21), 190-191. DOI: 10.1029/2010EO210002.10.1029/2010EO210002Open DOISearch in Google Scholar

[12] Gunnlaugsson, B. & Adalsteinsson, S. (1994). Pumice as environment-friendly substrate-a comparison with rockwool. International Symposium on Growing Media & Plant Nutrition in Horticulture 401. DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.1995.401.15.10.17660/ActaHortic.1995.401.15Search in Google Scholar

[13] Halldórsdóttir, Þórhildur & Nicholas, K. (2016). Local food in Iceland: identifying behavioral barriers to increased production and consumption. Environmental Reearch Letters 11 115004. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/11/11/115004.10.1088/1748-9326/11/11/115004Search in Google Scholar

[14] Jonsson, G. (1998). Changes in food consumption in Iceland, 1770-1940. Scandinavian Economic History Review 46(1), 24-41. DOI: 10.1080/03585522.1998.10414677.10.1080/03585522.1998.10414677Open DOISearch in Google Scholar

[15] Karlsson, G. (2000). The History of Iceland. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Search in Google Scholar

[16] Lund, J. W. (2007). Characteristics, development, and utilization of geothermal resources. Geo-Heat Center Quarterly Bulletin 28(2), 1-9.Search in Google Scholar

[17] Lund, J. W., Freeston, D. H. & Boyd, T. L. (2005). Direct application of geothermal energy: 2005 worldwide review. Geothermics 34(6), 691-727. DOI: 10.1016/j.geothermics.2005. DOISearch in Google Scholar

[18] Martinez, S. (2010). Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues. Darby: Diane Publishing.Search in Google Scholar

[19] Mehler, M. (2011). From self-sufficiency to external supply and famine: Foodstuffs, their preparation and storage in Iceland. In Klápště, J. & Sommer, P., eds., Processing, Storage, Distribution of Food: Food in the Medieval Rural Environment (pp. 173-186). Turnhout: Brepols. DOI: 10.1484/M.RURALIA-EB.1.100164.10.1484/M.RURALIA-EB.1.100164Open DOISearch in Google Scholar

[20] Mehler, N. (2007). Viking age and Medieval craft in Iceland: Adaptation to extraordinary living conditions on the edge of the Old World. In Klápště, J. & Sommer, P., eds., Arts and Crafts in Medieval Rural Environment (pp. 227-244). Turnhout: Brepols.Search in Google Scholar

[21] Ng, F. & Aksoy, M. A. (2008). Who are the Net Food Importing Countries? [Policy Research Working Paper]. New York: World Bank.10.1596/1813-9450-4457Search in Google Scholar

[22] Raento, P. (2010). Stomaching change: Finns, food, and boundaries in the European Union. Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography 92(4), 297-310. DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0467.2010.00354.x.10.1111/j.1468-0467.2010.00354.xOpen DOISearch in Google Scholar

[23] Ragnarsson, A. (2015). Geothermal Development in Iceland 2010-2014. In Horne, L. S. & Boyd, T., eds., World Geothermal Congress 2005 (not paged). Melbourne: International Geotherman Association.Search in Google Scholar

[24] Rose, W. I. & Durant, A. J. (2009). Fine ash content of explosive eruptions. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 186(1), 32-39. DOI: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2009. DOISearch in Google Scholar

[25] Shiklomanov, I. A. & Rodda, J. C., eds. (2003). World Water Resources at the Beginning of the Twenty-first Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

[26] Shoji, S. & Takahashi, T. (2002). Environmental and agricultural significance of volcanic ash soils. Global Environmental Research-English Edition 6(2), 113-135.Search in Google Scholar

[27] von Elsner, B., Briassoulis, D., Waaijenberg, D., Mistriotis, A., von Zabeltitz, C., Gratraud, J., Russo, G. & Suay-Cortes, R. (2000). Review of structural and functional characteristics of greenhouses in European Union countries, part I: Design requirements. Journal of Agricultural Engineering Research 75(2), 111-126. DOI: 10.1006/jaer.1999.0502.10.1006/jaer.1999.0502Open DOISearch in Google Scholar

[28] Webb, P. & Rogers, B. L. (2003). Addressing the "in" in food insecurity. [Occasional Paper 1]. Washington, DC: USAID Office of Food for Peace.Search in Google Scholar

[29] Bændasamtök Íslands (2013). Svona er íslenskur landbúnaður.Search in Google Scholar

[30] Bændasamtök Íslands (2012). Tollar og íslenskur landbúnaður.Search in Google Scholar

[31] European Union (2011). Screening Report Iceland: Agriculture and Rural Development. http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/pdf/iceland/keydocuments/screening_report_11_is_internet_en.pdf (accessed 19 June 2018).Search in Google Scholar

[32] Eurostat (2017).http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Electricity_price_statistics (accessed 19 June 2018).Search in Google Scholar

[33] Food and Agricultural Organization (2010). Country Report on The State of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture: Iceland http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/ess/ess_test_folder/World_Census_Agriculture/Country_info_2010/Reports/Methodology_4/ISL_ENG_MET_2010.pdf.Search in Google Scholar

[34] Gunnlaugsson, B., Agustsson, M. A. & Adalsteinsson, S. (2003). Sustainable use of geothermal energy in Icelandic horticulture (a paper read in the International Geothermal Conference Reykjavik).Search in Google Scholar

[35] Iceland Review (2009). Horticulture Producers in Iceland Protest with Flowers. icelandreview.com/icelandreview/daily_news/?cat_id=16567&ew_0_a_id=351499 (accessed 19 June 2018).Search in Google Scholar

[36] Islenska (2015). http://www.islenskt.is (accessed 19 June 2018).Search in Google Scholar

[37] Jónsson, B. July 2012. Personal interview.10.17992/lbl.2012.0708.442Search in Google Scholar

[38] Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Iceland (2009). Ahaettumatsskyrsla fyrir Island: Hnattraenir, samfelagslegir og hernadarlegir paettir.Search in Google Scholar

[39] Morgunbladid (2012). http://www.mbl.is/frettir/innlent/2012/07/09/oheimilt_samneyti_mismunandi_tomata/(accessed 19 June 2018).Search in Google Scholar

[40] Morgunbladid (2017). https://www.mbl.is/vidskipti/frettir/2017/08/09/undirbua_utflutning_a_graenmeti (accessed 19 June 2018).Search in Google Scholar

[41] Nestle, M. (2007). Food Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press.10.1525/9780520934467Search in Google Scholar

[42] OECD (2014). Agricultural Policy Monitoring and Evaluation 2014: OECD Countries, Paris: OECD Publishing. https://www.oecd.org/environment/countryreviews/Iceland%20Highlights%20web6.pdf (accessed 19 June 2018).10.1787/agr_pol-2014-enSearch in Google Scholar

[43] Orkustofnun 2017a http://os.is/gogn/Talnaefni/OS-2017-T014-01.pdf (accessed 19 June 2018).Search in Google Scholar

[44] Orkustofnun 2017b http://os.is/gogn/Talnaefni/OS-2017-T015-01.pdf (accessed 19 June2018).Search in Google Scholar

[45] Ragnarsson, A. 2003. Utilization of geothermal energy in Iceland (a paper read in the International Geothermal Conference Reykjavik).Search in Google Scholar

[46] Samband Gardyrkjubaenda. 2015. http://www.gardyrkja.is/ (accessed 19 June 2018).Search in Google Scholar

[47] Smjör (2012). http://smjor.is (Accessed 15 February 2018).Search in Google Scholar

[48] Statistics Iceland (2013). Other Gainful Activities of Agricultural Holdings. http://www.statice.is/ Statistics/fisheries-and-agriculture/agriculture (accessed 28 August2015).Search in Google Scholar

[49] Statistics Iceland (2011). Exports by Broad Economic Categories (BEC) 1999-2010. http://www.statice.is/Statistics/External-trade/Exports (accessed 15 September 2013).Search in Google Scholar

[50] World Bank (1986). Poverty and Hunger: Issues and Options for Food Security in Developing Countries. Washington, DC.Search in Google Scholar

[51] World Food Summit (1996). http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/programmes/pt/lead/toolbox/indust/romedec.pdf (accessed 4 March 2015).Search in Google Scholar

[52] World Health Organization (2012). Who.int. http://www.who.int/trade/glossary/story028/ (accessed 23 December 2012).Search in Google Scholar

Recommended articles from Trend MD

Plan your remote conference with Sciendo