Shipshape Urban Farms

This interview details Shipshape Urban Farms, an indoor farming technology company based in the United States. The interview is with Angela Speetjens, Co-Founder/CSO of Shipshape Urban Farms.

Source: Shipshape Urban Farms

What is the origin story of ShipShape Urban Farms?

Back in 2016, my husband Dale and I founded ShipShape Urban Farms (SUF). Dale's expertise in environmental design, landscape architecture, and city planning, and mine in horticulture and hydroponics made for a perfect match and a clear mission to change the game in sustainable agriculture.

Our journey officially began in the summer of 2017 when we acquired a test farm. We grew in-ground crops alongside crops in a hydroponic greenhouse and began building a prototype of our tech.  We were inspired by the concept of introducing modular hydroponic farms within an upcycled shipping container, strategically placing farming at the core of the city. Our vision was twofold: to make farming accessible to urban communities and contribute to the alleviation of food deserts while addressing the shortcomings of the current food system.

Source: Shipshape Urban Farms

As we started this venture, supplying our own Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and several local restaurants and grocery stores we quickly realized that our model had the potential to extend far beyond our local community. We envisioned empowering others and addressing broader food security concerns by creating a network of agripreneurs to cultivate a safer, fresher, more cost effective food source.

Then, the pandemic hit, prompting us to reflect and adapt our farming approach. This challenge ultimately led to a breakthrough, a system capable of producing the equivalent of 5 acres of greens within 500 square feet. With this innovation, we welcomed our first customer, which was a significant milestone. We recognized the vast potential of SUF and expanded our vision, committing ourselves to making a meaningful global impact.

Looking ahead, we've got big dreams for Shipshape Urban Farms.  We are continuing on our journey towards sustainability, aspiring to pioneer regenerative agriculture and create the “Hab”, the world's first 3D printed hydroponic farm! At our core is a steadfast commitment to a sustainable ethos, driving us towards a net-zero farm powered entirely by renewable energy. We want to build living structures that blend seamlessly with the environment, embodying regenerative principles for a truly sustainable future.

Source: Shipshape Urban Farms

Can you tell us more about your work with up-cycling?

We initially used up-cycled shipping containers to house the hydroponic system, but their size limitations made it challenging to create profitable growing spaces for both us and our customers. This didn't sit right with us, as we wanted to ensure that the systems we provided could be sold and operated profitably for all stakeholders involved. Recognizing this, we shifted our focus and researched innovative solutions for optimal growing environments and energy efficiency. This led us to redesign our system and create a modular farm from scratch. Additionally, we view 3D printing of farms as the future of vertical farming, enabling rapid and efficient system construction. It puts us at the forefront of innovation, enhancing both efficiency and sustainability in our farm design approach.

Source: Shipshape Urban Farms

What are some of the biggest challenges facing ShipShape Urban Farms in the future?

One significant hurdle is high operating costs due to energy-intensive practices, a common issue in vertical farming. However, we're actively addressing these concerns and have already identified measures that lead to over a 60-70% reduction in costs compared to other vertical farms. Our dedication to continuous innovation remains steadfast as we strive to drive these efficiencies further.

Secondly, there's a growing acceptance and embrace of the idea of produce grown in Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA). Demonstrating that hydroponically grown produce is as nutritious and flavorful as soil-grown alternatives is essential for overcoming misconceptions and gaining broader support. Education and transparency about our methods and the advantages they bring will play a crucial role in overcoming these challenges.

Source: Shipshape Urban Farms

What is unique about ShipShape Urban Farms compared to competitors?

SUF stands out due to innovation, sustainability, and community focus. While many vertical farming companies have essentially transferred the problem of farming in California to major U.S. cities, we're taking a different approach by prioritizing the rest of the country. Our focus is on mitigating the adverse effects of food miles, reducing significant food waste resulting from the extensive transportation in our current food system. We've also recently unveiled plans for our groundbreaking 3D printed structure, we call the “Hab” revolutionizing vertical farming with efficiency and resource optimization.

Source: Shipshape Urban Farms

The Hab is a "Living Building," prioritizing sustainability through energy and water self-sufficiency, natural materials, and regenerative design. It enhances human well-being with ample natural light, superior air quality, and a strong connection to nature. Our living building concept epitomizes environmental harmony and sustainability. Adaptable modular design caters to diverse community needs and landscapes. Closed-loop hydroponic systems enhance water efficiency and maximize yield. Strategically located farms combat food deserts, ensuring food security and embodying a community-centric approach. Renewable energy integration underscores our commitment to eco-friendly operations. Diverse partnerships and revenue models showcase our flexibility and dedication to sustainability. 

We have also taken a pioneering step by assembling our first payload to the International Space Station. The payload contains seeds for research into their exposure to cosmic radiation and potential mutations that can lead to enhanced crop varieties. We have plans to launch this payload into space at the end of Q1 2024, marking a significant milestone in our efforts to shape the future of sustainable farming. 

Source: Shipshape Urban Farms

How do you measure the impact of your company so far? (Revenue, Employees, Customer Quantity, Production Volume) Etc?

We measure our impact by tracking our revenue growth, evaluating the success of our customers in terms of their profitability and the quality of the produce they grow, and assessing our efforts in sustainable farming. Additionally, we place a significant emphasis on the growth and overall well-being of our team members, recognizing these as crucial aspects of our impact assessment. These key indicators help us gauge our progress and ensure we're aligned with our goals of sustainability, innovation, and providing value to our customers.

Source: Shipshape Urban Farms

What have you learned that you wish you knew when you joined or started the company?

Looking back at my journey with the company, a few invaluable lessons come to mind. First, the importance of patience - everything just takes longer than you'd think. Understanding and accepting this is crucial, especially as a startup where timelines can be unpredictable. Secondly, I've come to appreciate that it's not solely about the end goal, but the journey itself. The challenges and triumphs we face along the way truly shape our company. Additionally, be selective when it comes to investors. Not only do you have to prove yourself to investors, you should also make them prove themselves to you.  Choosing the right partners who align with your vision and values is vital. Last but not least, farming is HARD, but embracing the difficulties with a positive outlook and a little bit of humor has been key to our perseverance and success.

Source: Shipshape Urban Farms

How can people connect with you or learn more about  ShipShape Urban Farms?

You can visit our website at www.shipshapeurbanfarms.com to explore in-depth information about our mission, approach, and the innovative solutions we offer.

You can follow us on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

If you have specific inquiries or want to get in touch with our team, feel free to reach out via email at info@shipshapeurbanfarms.com

We're always excited to connect, share our passion for sustainable farming, and answer any questions you may have about ShipShape Urban Farms and our journey toward a greener future.

Source: Shipshape Urban Farms

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