Celebrating 5 Years Part 5: What lies ahead?
We left off last week with coming to the present day for our company, 5 quick but eventful years have gone by almost before we could realize it. It’s crazy to think that our business has been around longer than our college careers and yet it feels like its been at most half the time.
When we set out on this journey we had goals and a drive but it was not as defined as it is today. We knew that we wanted to grow food and we knew we wanted to inspire others to discover aquaponics and empower their lives much the same way we had in college and later in Spencer’s backyard.
We rolodexed through many different missions from eradicating world hunger, to build, grow, earn with aquaponics and maybe a half dozen more. As we matured as a business and solidified our goals in our own mind we landed on a mission we felt was imperative for the future, attainable within our lifetimes, and inclusive of everyone not just our company. That mission, to create the City that Feeds ItselfTM is one that is going to guide us through our next five years.
We’ve also come to see that aquaponics can improve lives of people in so many more ways than just providing a clean, trustworthy and sustainably grown source of produce. With our hidden farmer groups like schools, veterans, I/DD agencies, etc we have partners within all cities and communities that will benefit from growing while contributing to the food security of their city.
Looking into the future we’re looking to build on the foundation we have created in Meriden. We’re using the Meriden project as the showcase for what is possible in CT. We still have our eyes on Hartford and hope to expand next year with a large 20,000+ sqft urban vertical aquaponics farm. In similar fashion to our Meriden Sprout Food Hub, this will be another Sprout Food Hub that will set up the support and infrastructure for a smaller network of farms to We’ve already have a space picked out and are in the process of acquiring the capital we will need to move forward with that project.
We’ll be connecting the schools that we work with already in Hartford to the project, implementing our hidden farmer model to show how even small grows at partner organizations can have an impact on local food security. We’ll use the schools and our curriculum to collect data on the food habits of Hartford residents so we both can address the local food needs and grow to the local population. This will be the model we use in every city to work towards our goal of creating the City that Feeds ItselfTM wherever we or a partner sets up a farm.
Our goal in the next year is not just to get this going in Hartford, but also in New Haven. We’ve already picked out a location in New Haven as well that’s in a great neighborhood and full of businesses we can synergize with to deliver delicious local food to New Haven residents. With New Haven, we will also be working with our school clients the same way we will in Hartford to collect data that gives us that snapshot of the local food ecosystem in New Haven. This will inform us, and anyone who wants to serve the New Haven market, with what is actually in demand in New Haven that can be grown locally. With both cities, we want to move them towards complete food security over the next few years and showcase the model that can work in any city in the state, the country or the world.
With both of these projects, we’ll face the same challenges we’ve faced in the past, they are very capital intensive at the outset. In the past, we’ve bootlegged all our farms but for these, it will take years for us to build up that kind of capital. Instead, this time around we are going to use our five years of success as a model to find partners that would like to join our mission in these cities and can help with the burden of some of the cost.
We’ve already locked down an education partnership with CREC schools to develop our K-12 curriculum and help us to sell our services to other schools throughout the country. With any city we go into, we like to have a few hidden farmers in place that can give us insight into the city’s food paradigm.
We’ll look for similar partners for the farm side of the business that can help us fund farms but also help with getting the food into the organizations and people that can best utilize it. We’re in many talks already with potential scaling partners that should be able to help us with these buildouts in New Haven and Hartford next year and hopefully many more farms over the course of the next five years.
Our goal is not only to expand our business but to empower others to follow our model and open up their own farms in their own cities. By showcasing a model that works in different cities and different food demographics we can reduce a lot of the uncertainties many urban farmers currently face.
We’ve come a long way in our short 5 years as a company, but we still have a long long way to go to create the City that Feeds ItselfTM. This is a mission that will likely take a lifetime but should have a lasting legacy that results in sustainable food ecosystems that can reliably support our growing urban populations within the means of our planets resources. We look forward to the challenges we’ll need to overcome and know along the way we’ll be helping ourselves and others eat some might good food that they can feel proud about.