Spingworks was in 2014 by CEO Trevor Kenkel. He was just 19-years old. Now 26, here he is walking into his innovative greenhouse in Lisbon, Maine.

Springworks to add 500,000 sq. ft. to ensures retail customers including Hannaford Supermarkets and Whole Foods have nutrient-packed, fresh, organic lettuce and greens year round

By Ramona du Houx

August 12, 2021

Springworks, the largest and first certified organic aquaponic farming operation in New England, has plans to add 500,000 additional square feet of greenhouse space. The expansion will sustainably serve the Maine farm’s largest customers, Whole Foods and Hannaford Supermarkets, as well as a wide range of local restaurants, stores, and other outlets Springworks supplies with fresh, certified organic varieties of lettuce.

Springworks is an aquaponic greenhouse grower located in Lisbon, Maine that produces certified organic lettuce and tilapia all year. Aquaponics is a type of farming that fosters the natural symbiotic relationship between plants and fish. The Springworks aquaponics system uses 90-95 percent less water than soil-based agriculture and the company’s proprietary system grows up to 20 times more produce per acre than a conventional farm.

Spingworks was in 2014 by CEO Trevor Kenkel. He was just 19-years old.

CEO Trevor Kenkel cuts the ribbon for his aquaponics greenhouse operation: Springworks in Lisbon, Maine

The first 40,000 square-foot greenhouse came online in May 2021, immediately tripling the company’s yearly production of Bibb, Romaine, leaf lettuce, salad mix, and other produce, as well as thousands of additional pounds of tilapia, which are instrumental to Springworks’ aquaponics greens-growing process.

Kenkel attributes much of today’s growth to increased orders from supermarkets in response to COVID-19.

“The pandemic caused a lot of disruption for grocery stores and the buyers who support them. Shipping delays from west coast vendors forced supermarket buyers to seek out local and regional sources for safe, nutritious, and sustainable food of all kinds. At Springworks, we deliver on all fronts, with an ecosystem centered approach that uses 90 percent less water than other methods, uses no synthetic pesticides, and allows us to produce flavorful, fresh greens and fish all year long,” said Kenkel. 

When the pandemic began to take hold in 2020, Whole Foods sourced Springworks to stock/shelf their loose lettuce products in order to meet the immense consumer demand for organic lettuce in the northeast. Many grocery stores experienced west coast-based supplier unreliability due to transportation delays and other cross-country supply and delivery problems.

Hannaford expanded their distribution of Springworks lettuce beyond New England into New York-area stores. Hannaford first started carrying Springworks lettuce in a handful of Maine stores in 2017, when the chain was seeking local alternatives to lettuce from California, Arizona, and Mexico. Within two years, Springworks’ service and quality inspired Hannaford to   increase distribution to all Maine stores. And, when the pandemic hit and consumer demand spiked, Hannaford added Springworks to their stores in New York.

Sierra, of Springwork’s Sales and Marketing, Hannaford Produce Catergory Manager Mark Jewell and CEO Trevor Kenkel in the greenhouse.

“Springworks checks every box when it comes to our lettuce supply needs and Zero Food Waste goals – starting with its aquaponics method for growing greener, more nutritious, and fresh produce,” said Hannaford Produce Category Manager Mark Jewell. “We also are impressed by their consistent quality and ingenuity. These factors, combined with their exceptional food safety practices, year-round availability and proximity to our distribution centers made it an easy decision to choose Springworks over field-grown product that’s shipped across the country.”

Hannaford also replaced their existing organic green leaf lettuce with Springworks’ brand, in addition to products including Springworks’ Organic Baby Green Romaine Lettuce, which yields the perfect amount of crispy lettuce for a single salad or smoothie. Kenkel, along with his sister, Vice President Sierra Kenkel, who has been by his side since the beginning, are constantly researching and developing new varieties that will align with retailers’ business needs, as well as meet consumer lifestyle and nutritional needs.

“Consumers who value quality and transparency are asking supermarkets for organic products from local food producers,” said Sierra, who is responsible for Sales and Marketing for Springworks. “From seed to sale, we work hard to deliver the freshest, best tasting lettuce that stores such as Whole Foods and Hannaford expect – and their customers deserve. We’re looking forward to conversations with other major northeast supermarket chains, as our new greenhouse will further increase our ability to grow great-tasting, nutrient-packed, certified organic lettuce – and in the future specialty greens and herbs – year-round right here in Maine.”

Springworks has more development plans in the works.

Locally gown vegetables and fish are what thousands of consumers are searching for, tired of vegetables that have been picked without natural ripening and grown with chemicals as well as fish that may have toxins. Spingworks appears to be the future in farming.

Additionally, Maine is currently in a drought after suffering a historic drought last year that left the Northern County having to have the Federal government declare it an emergency. Springworks conserves water, working with sustainable ecologically sound practices

“Our work is rooted in conservation, and in reducing the resources we pour into food production. By making our system closed-loop and organic, we help protect the ecosystems we depend on and enjoy,” said Kenkel. “Over 95 percent of the lettuce in the U.S. is grown in California and Arizona, where water scarcity is only set to become a bigger problem. We designed our system to use just 5 percent of the water required by conventional methods to conserve freshwater.”