The story of Trevor Kenkel, an aquaponic farmer and business man

Growing up in Montana, Trevor Kenkel liked fishing at a creek near his house, but eventually, the wildlife disappeared due to chemical effluent from a nearby farm. In reaction, he looked into organic gardening and came upon aquaponics, a chemical-free system in which waste produced by farmed fish supplies nutrients for plants grown hydroponically in greenhouses, which in turn purify the water returned to the fish tanks. He started selling lettuce to restaurants, then moved to Maine and continued to grow the business while at Bowdoin College.

In 2014, Kenkel bought a 168-acre farm in Lisbon and started Springworks Farm. Today, Springworks is New England’s largest aquaponics grower. With nearly 40 employees, it sells organic lettuces and herbs in all 184 Hannaford supermarkets and Whole Foods’ New England stores and farmed tilapia to Harbor Fish in Portland. Recently, Kenkel opened the third greenhouse and plans to bring greenhouse space to nearly 500,000 square feet by 2026 — a $4 million project helped by a $300,000 Maine Technology Institute grant

"We had a committed group of investors and a great board. I’ve been very intentional about matching the size of the business with the folks and expertise on our team. We tried not to get too big too fast," Trevor explains. "It was small-scale, but I had been growing for six years. I had a demonstration greenhouse in Montana and I was diligent about getting time-lapse photography to validate how quickly things grew and how that compared to hydroponic or conventional agriculture. It was important to demonstrate that we could grow products at a speed that’s competitive while remaining certified organic." 

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