A digital rendering of Springworks’ greenhouse expansion plans in Lisbon. Submitted illustration

LISBON — Springworks greenhouse plans to add more than 500,000 square feet of space to its operation, increasing its growing capacity more than 20 times over. 

The Lisbon-based farm raises tilapia and produces several varieties of organic lettuce using aquaponics, a sustainable agricultural technique where plants and fish mutually support each other’s growth in a close system. 

They are the sole supplier of organic green leaf lettuce to Hannaford, additionally providing produce to Whole Foods Market and wholesale food providers. 

Springworks’ third greenhouse will be completed in May, adding an additional 40,000 square feet. The rest of the expansion is expected to be completed by 2026. 

In a news release, Trevor Kenkel, founder of Springworks, attributed the expansion to a growing need for locally-sourced organic produce following disruption in supply chains during the pandemic. 

Last year, Hannaford extended Springworks produce to their New York stores, and Whole Foods Market sourced Springworks to provide organic lettuce to stores in the Northeast.

According to Mark Jewell, Hannaford’s category manager for fresh vegetables and flora, labor shortages in the West caused Hannaford to rely more on local partners like Springworks to help meet customer demand.   

“We were experiencing delays and shortages on products because companies just could not physically produce the product, because they did not have sufficient labor to do so,” he said.

Hannaford stopped purchasing organic leaf lettuce from the West Coast and began exclusively offering Springworks’ organic lettuces. Jewell said this has been mutually beneficial for both businesses. 

Before, it took three trucks each week, driving from California to Maine, to supply Hannaford stores with organic lettuce. By sourcing locally, the produce is fresher, and Hannaford is able to reduce its environmental footprint. “This is a huge win, just by getting that product closer to home,” he said.

Jewell explained that Hannaford began stocking Springworks lettuce at several stores in 2017 after a local wholesale supplier introduced him to Kenkel’s produce. 

“(They) pitched what Trevor was doing, which really intrigued me,” Jewell said. “He’s really trying to do something great for the community, do something that’s gonna provide some fresh, unique product to Hannaford in a way that’s totally different than buying off the West Coast from California or Mexico.” 

Springworks is the largest aquaponics greenhouse in New England, and one of the largest in the country. The farm was started in 2014 by Kenkel while he was a freshman at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. His first greenhouse on the 168-acre parcel in Lisbon was just 6,000 square feet, a third of the space currently in use.

At Springworks, water containing waste from tilapia provides natural fertilizer to the lettuce, which grows in water, not soil. The plants filter the waste, and clean water is returned to the fish tanks. This process can produce fresh, certified organic produce year-round.

According to Kenkel, aquaponics uses 90% less water than other farming techniques and no synthetic pesticides. The process is also more space-efficient than conventional farming methods because plants can be packed closer together.

Jim Darroch, a spokesperson for Springworks, said their method is relatively unique in the agricultural industry. 

“A lot of people don’t view it as a viable growing method,” he said. “They don’t feel like it has the potential to scale properly. Because it’s a lot more work to grow fish and plants at the same time … you’ve got this whole ecosystem going (at Springworks), but the result of all that extra effort is you’ve got 100% certified organic produce. And that’s what people are really looking for.”


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