Breaking Ground on Our New Digs
We signed a lease and clinked champagne! On February 21, 2017, Trifecta Ecosystems signed a 5-year lease for an approximately 8,300sqft of combined warehouse and office space. This signing marked the culmination of over a year of searching for a new location for our pilot urban farm.
This pilot farm will act as a proving ground for urban aquaponics and controlled environment agriculture in Connecticut. This will be a diverse mixed-use space, housing our pilot urban farm Seed System 1, our corporate headquarters, a research farm partially funded by the USDA to explore the viability of vertical farming in CT, an educational and workshop area, a manufacturing area to build systems for our clients, and a small commercial kitchen for washing, processing and packaging the produce coming off of the farms.
These diverse nature of the space will help us serve our clients better with areas to offer a variety of staple food products and bring field trips, professional development workshops, trainings, and classes right within the farm. Now, as we teach our clients the ins and outs of the aquaponics trifecta, they can take their newfound expertise and apply it instantly through hands-on work with a commercial scale system.
Within days of signing the lease, we began renovating the space for our unique needs. The previous tenant, Boardman Silversmiths, did cool things like engraving the Stanley Cup trophy for each year’s winner and other fine pewter work. They had more office space than we need so we’ve converted about half of the old offices into a research facility. The research facility, partially funded through a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant and a CCAT Small Business incubator Program Grant, as well as our own capital, will be researching the efficiency of various vertical production techniques. We will be comparing the vertical production rates versus established soil production rates for Connecticut Farmers. However, it is our hope not only to showcase the huge increase in output with vertical production but also show that it is economically viable for farmers to convert to vertical growing for specialty greens. We hope to inspire and empower others to start growing food, like our hidden farmers, and together we can make Meriden the City that Feeds ItselfTM.
The first step in our buildout was to take out the temporary sheetrocked walls and open up a portion of the previous office space to outfit our research. And by taking out, I mean swing sledge hammers into walls for 5 hours on a Saturday letting out all the frustration and stress over our 14-month quest to find the right space. It was a great way to start off the build and an oddly great team building exercise for our small group. Check out the videos below; we may have had a little too much fun, but the jokes and light mood made the work go by with ease.
Relying On Others
After we demolished the space it was time to bring in certified contractors for the new buildout. It was here that we learned the value of relationships and vetting those you stand to work with. We really required that anyone who came on was into the project and the bigger mission and not just the paycheck. We knew we’d have to get creative with the budget we had for buildout in the Research area and wanted to ensure that our contractors could be creative in helping us cut costs with sacrificing what we needed out of the space. We’ve hit a few road bumps so far and had to switch one of our contractors but overall we have been extremely fortunate with the group we’ve assembled and the way they handle mistakes or misunderstandings.
In fact, thanks to the dedication of everyone working on the project we are still ahead of schedule on our buildout and the work so far has been top notch. This is definitely a lesson for others, it’s worth taking the time in any area of your business to vet who you work with and make sure you both have the same goals and expectations.
Keeping it moving this weekend as we got the kitchen extension and seeding/microgreens studs up. We are learning a lot over the course of this buildout and that is exactly the point. The whole goal of our first location is to build a foundation to expand #aquaponics and #indoorfarming across #connecticut and the region. So as the buildout continues there will surely be more challenges that we may face but we will gladly take them on and overcome. #citythatfeedsitself #keepingitmoving #bigthingsarecoming
What’s Up Next?
At this stage, we are celebrating our one month anniversary at our new space! We’ve completed our demolition and will complete framing and sheetrock this week. Next up we’ll get our new electrician in to wire the research and pilot farm for our grow light needs. Then the plumber will come in to install floor drains followed by our flooring contractor who will seal and burm our grow areas. In the event of a flood, we don’t want any of our neighbors to worry and the seal and burm will ensure any accidental spills are captured. We hope to complete this work in the next few weeks. Then the fun really begins as we get to take back the reins for the buildout of the Research and Pilot farm spaces.
Make sure to follow us on facebook or Instagram if you are not already for behind the scenes access to our buildout. All the pictures and videos you saw in this post were on our Instagram weeks ago, don’t miss out! Also please join our mailing list by dropping your email into the chat box on the bottom right of the page. We’ll be sending out dates and invites to our launch party where we unveil the farm through our email list first.