From Route 196, Springworks Farm in Lisbon looks like most farms in Maine this time of year — more brown than green, a closed farm stand by the road, a couple of dusty pickup trucks in the dirt parking lot.
But looks can be deceiving. In the main greenhouse, not only does a variety of bright green lettuce stretch in long rows down the length of the room, but in a much darker adjacent room, tilapia in different stages of growth swim energetically in a dozen large tanks. The farm doesn't shut down for the winter, and it's not slowing down for anything else, either.
Earlier this month the aquaponic farm that specializes in greens, announced expansion plans that will bring it to 500,000 square feet of greenhouse space by 2026. The project will take a few years, but the first step is already underway with a 40,000-square-foot greenhouse, the third at the farm, that's expected to be in use by next month and will triple the farm's output.
The expansion comes at the intersection of growing climate change awareness and the trend, which became a trend on steroids since the pandemic began, of consumers, demanding locally grown food and grocers rethinking their distribution chains Springworks' aquaponics growing method is in the perfect position to ride the wave.
Expanding and expanding again
COVID-19 has led to a lot of new business for Springworks, but the planning for the expansion began well before it started. The new 40,000-square-foot greenhouse, developed by Priority Group, of Topsham, will triple the output of the farm's products — organic bibb, romaine, leaf lettuce, salad mix, and other greens. It will also increase the amount of tilapia the farm annually grows, which is now 60,000 pounds annually, opening new commercial markets.
The $4 million greenhouse expansion got a boost from a $300,000 Maine Technology Institute grant in August, part of the Maine Technology Asset Fund 2.5E, which supports projects that align well with the state’s 10-year strategic economic development plan and have a significant economic impact, particularly in rural Maine.
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