As well as being a Bowdoin student, Trevor Kenkel ’18 is a successful hydroponic farmer whose 6,000 square-foot operation in Lisbon, Maine, produces more than 250,000 heads of lettuce per year for local customers, writes food writer Christine Burns Rudalevige in The Portland Press Herald.
Kenkel was among several hydroponic food growers mentioned in the article, which looks at how more Maine food producers “are stepping up their indoor operations that cut down on food waste and cross-country transportation.”
Unlike soil-based farmers, Burns Rudalevige points out, hydroponic operations—which grow plants indoors without soil—can produce crops at the same rate all year-round. “Their roots sit in nutrient-rich water in these closed systems, which use up to 95 percent less water than traditional farming in soil does.”
Kenkel’s facility, Springworks Farm, is what’s called an aquaponics operation, she explains, meaning it uses the manure of fish, in this case tilapia, to fertilize the water. Kenkel’s customers are all local businesses, including Bowdoin Dining Services.
“The short turnaround of local distribution eliminates a lot of potential food waste,” Kenkel told the paper, adding that as much as 40 percent of organic lettuce distributed nationally rots before it hits the plate.
Christine Burns Rudalevige is married to Thomas Brackett Reed Professor of Government Andrew Rudalevige.