LISBON — As Springworks Farm celebrates 10 years in business this year, head grower Brady Sinclair is notching his first year at the unique greenhouse collective, which is about to add a 120,000-square-foot greenhouse.

Sinclair comes to the farm with more than 15 years of experience working in commercial greenhouses in Madison, Maine and Texas, where, of course, they do most things on a grand scale.

Sinclair and his wife, Sarah, are Mainers. He moved away as a young child to Wisconsin with his family but returned to Maine at age 19. His wife served in the U.S. Navy in Hawaii, Japan and Qatar before returning to civilian life. They have two teenage daughters.

Springworks Farm uses a relatively simple concept of farming that is catching on like wildfire — aquaponics. It’s the process of growing plants and raising fish in a symbiotic environment, where fish waste provides nutrients for the plants, and the plants, in turn, keep water clean for the fish.

Springworks Farm head grower Brady Sinclair relaxes last month in one of the massive greenhouses he oversees at the Lisbon business. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Springworks uses tilapia to fertilize the water that allows the farm to grow certified organic bibb, romaine and green leaf lettuces, which it sells to customers such as Hannaford, Whole Foods and Food City.

The three greenhouses put out over 2 million heads of organic lettuce a year, and the farm raises about 150,000 pounds of tilapia, although for now, the farm sells only a small portion of its fish to Harbor Fish Market in Portland.


The farm announced last year that it is pouring $22 million into a fourth greenhouse that will be 120,000 square feet, more than doubling production to over five million heads of lettuce a year and increasing annual tilapia production to 350,000 pounds. It’s scheduled to open later this year.

It’s a little daunting, but Sinclair was noticeably excited.

“My entire objective is to help us grow and to get bigger… Yeah, it’s a lot of work but this is what we do it for, right? I’m excited.”

Tilapia are an integral part of the aquaponics system of growing lettuce at Springworks Farm in Lisbon. The tilapia provide fertilizer for the lettuce, which, in turn, cleanses the water. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal/file

The nonprofit organization Recirculating Farms said aquaponics can conserve water and energy, have low food safety risks, produce large amounts of fish and plants in small spaces, and pose low environmental impacts, while providing fresh, local food.

“It’s important for food security and sustainability as we move forward,” Sinclair said, indicative of how he feels about his job and what he’s doing. “I just happened to get lucky that I really loved it and made a career out of it. And it sort of balances this technology and farming that is sort of good for my generation.”

The concept of aquaponics is simple, but making it happen is anything but. “Head grower is like a neat title,” Sinclair said as described a typical day at work.


“I’m managing the labor, what we put out that day, the production line, the pack line… what our fish are doing as far as what they need to be fed, what the water temperatures are, and the same with the greenhouse.”

There is an entire team of mechanics and other specialists to help monitor and manipulate the environmental controls to keep the right temperature, humidity, pH and oxygen levels of the water.

Software helps Sinclair and his team monitor the systems and notifies them if anything gets outside the assigned parameters. “It rings alarm bells that call us all hours of the night,” Sinclair said. And yes, he’s spent a few nights in the greenhouse.

Controlling the mechanical systems is one thing, but Sinclair says Mother Nature dictates how the systems work. “It’s still easier to grow lettuce in the winter than it is in the summer. It just doesn’t like the heat. That’s why the tools work best in the summer, it’s very much designed for that.”

Head grower Brady Sinclair at Springworks Farm in Lisbon checks lettuce last month while managing the labor force, daily output, the production line, and the pack line in addition to ensuring the fish and greenhouse are at the right temperature. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

A confident boss is a consistent boss, and Brady Sinclair exudes both characteristics.

“I think I really love the sort of culture building and people environment,” he said. “I love plants. Will always love them, but I also couldn’t do it by myself. So, that whole process of building a team around you and making that thing sort of, everybody’s pushing it forward — that’s easily my favorite part about the job.”


Lettuce grows last month in a section of one of the giant greenhouses at Springworks Farm in Lisbon. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The greenhouse and farm environment seem to attract people of similar mindset.

“Some people are here because they really love the idea of fish and are learning to love the idea of plants or vice-versa,” Sinclair said. “Some people love the technology behind it and some people, you know, love the production aspect of it. So, it’s not just like it draws one person. I think that the greenhouse environment culture is this mixture of farming and technology that is pretty unique.”

The only downside to his job? Sinclair reluctantly said it’s the 24/7 aspect — alarms ringing at 2 a.m. as an example. “If I could one day ‘poof’ and get rid of that part of it, I probably would…. no, I can’t.” It’s just like being a firefighter, or EMT — it comes with the job.

“If I hated it, then I would stop doing it,” he said.

Sinclair does indeed get time off occasionally, and for him, that precious time is all about family. “I know I have two girls and a lovely wife. That is pretty much my entire life outside of here, whether that’s watching movies or going to another place,” he said, which could be a drive to see family or a hockey game in Portland or a show in Boston.

Not all Mainers love snow. Just ask Brady Sinclair. His wife and daughters love it and missed it when they lived briefly in Texas.

“When there’s snow on the ground for Christmas, that’s awesome,” he said. “But if it’s gone the next day, I wouldn’t cry.”

His work in the greenhouses is truly never far from his thoughts though. “Snow is not good. It collects on the roof.”

“Working” is a monthly feature highlighting an individual, group or business and focuses on what they do for their job. It’s a great way to recognize people for their work or an entire career. If you have a suggestion for or would like to nominate someone for recognition, send an email to: .

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