On 10 April 1923, the Norwegian state bought the farm Holt on Tromsø island, and the agricultural research station at Holt was established. It has later changed its name several times after various reorganizations, and today it is named NIBIO Tromsø (Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy). The farm is the world's northernmost research station in soil and plant culture and is located on the west side of Tromsø island, just 2,5 km from the city center.
The academic activity at NIBIO Tromsø is wide-ranging. Work is being done on cultivated and uncultivated land, land use and resource mapping, climate impact and rural development. The unique geographical location close to the limits of cultivation in the north provides opportunities to test plant growth and plant physiological conditions at low temperatures and with light around the clock during the growing season. Development and testing of plant material that can withstand the climate in northern areas is one of the core tasks at the station. In this context, variety testing (commissioned by Graminor) and value testing/variety approval (commissioned by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority) are conducted.
The projects are within disciplines such as cultivation of forage, potatoes, vegetables and berries, local food, landscape monitoring, vegetation and soil mapping, freshwater fish, reindeer husbandry and various conflicts related to the use of uncultivated land. The 28 NIBIO employees are affiliated with four divisions and 8 departments and staffs, so there is a widespread both organizationally and professionally. The scientific production is consequently broad, but with a strong focus on plant science.
Important tasks in the future that cut across all disciplines will be acquiring more knowledge about quality advantages and innovation opportunities in the north, and not least knowledge about the consequences of climate change (which will be greatest in the north).
Area and buildings
The Holt property is in total 43 hectares, of which 14 consists of cultivated land, 2,5 pasture and 17 forest. On parts of the forest area, an arboretum has been established in cooperation with UiT. The uncultivated area is otherwise widely used as a recreational area for the population of Tromsø. It is facilitated with footpaths, lighted trails and children's ski lift. South of Holtvegen you will also find school gardens and allotment gardens run by the Holt Eco Park Foundation.
The following buildings stand on the property:
- Administration building. The building has office space for NIBIO employees as well as employees in several professionally related businesses.
- Old farm building. Storage rooms, grass drying plant, feed processing room, etc.
- Workshop building. Workshop hall, office, storage rooms etc.
- Kindergarten. Rennovated in 2009. Rented out to the foundation «Barnehagen hundre».
- Two dwelling houses. One is sectioned into four apartments that are rented out, preferably to employees.
- Kostlaget (older building). Contains an apartment and 7 single rooms/dormitory
- Climate laboratory (phytotron) with greenhouses.
Cultivated land for field trials, a plastic tunnel for berry production and the climate laboratory with experimental greenhouses are the most important parts of the infrastructure for research at NIBIO Tromsø. The field areas are too small in relation to the need and NIBIO Tromsø therefore rents additional area from neighbouring properties. The growing season is short with approx. 140 growth days and 612- day degrees. The average annual precipitation is 1031 mm.
The climate laboratory is owned and operated in collaboration with UiT - The Arctic University of Norway and is one of three such facilities in the country. It allows for experiments under controlled light and temperature conditions and is of great importance for research on plant growth and climate adaptions. Adjacent to the climate laboratory, we have a chemical laboratory and a separate greenhouse.
There is a meteorological monitoring station on the farm where data is posted continuously on the yr.no. In addition, frost depth (soil) is measured every week during the winter.
Regional focus – Arctic agriculture
Through political missions and tradition, the station has had a strong focus on the whole of Northern Norway as a region. NIBIO will play an active role towards the agricultural industry in the north, and over time a good network has been built up with agricultural organisations, the advisory service and the agricultural administration. Through close cooperation with the North Norwegian Agricultural Council, the station has contributed to active investment in R&D and to building a concept around Arctic agriculture. The research station has also for a number of years been in charge of the Competence Network for Local Food in the North.
When NIBIO was established, Tromsø was designated as the main regional centre of gravity in the north. The focus on Arctic agriculture is and will continue to be a major motivator for our activities. To further strengthen and expand this work, the Centre for Arctic Agriculture was established in 2021. The centre is located at NIBIO Tromsø but has its area of activity throughout Northern Norway.