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The Open Source Farm

We are working towards a sustainable vertical farm for Chicagoland. What has been lacking in produce is the knowledge of our foods. I have spoken with people and chefs, asking the same question. Do you know where your food came from? How long has it been sitting idly waiting to come to you? Why do we not know the answers to these questions? Produce loses its nutrition quickly, buying food that’s been sitting for a few days greatly reduces what we get, and we pay the same price nonetheless.

It’s understandable why the world is in this format. Chicago being in a colder climate has less opportunity to have fresh food, so we outsourced. Today however, we do not need to operate in this way. We have the opportunity to utilize technology to remedy the nutritional desert we are in within Chicagoland. 

In 2021, Spira Farms took action and started exploring what it would take to achieve that dream where our food is local, fresh and nutritious. Our farm is sustainable, meaning the water, energy and waste are aligned with the long-term well-being of our world. We jumped out into the communities and spoke with everyone, to learn that we are not alone in this type of vision. People do in fact care about this topic. We just need to make local foods mainstream, to further this plan. People are busy, not everyone knows the in’s and out’s of nutrition or why we care about local foods. I certainly did not until my family got hit with a surprise serious medical condition.

To further this idea, we are going public. Not the stock market – we’re just going to share everything we can. Profits, revenue, investment goals, events, subscribers, everything. If we want our dream to come true, we need the community to see what we are doing.

Why – I think this develops credibility for the farm, and mainly I just think it’s interesting. Businesses have shared a lot, but I have not found a vertical farm startup doing this. Perhaps this is the avenue in which we can educate our community to align towards a specific goal.

Current 2022 Goals

This is where I am going to share what we are working towards today. Growth is the game for 2022, it’s the game for every year but we are bootstrapping this ourselves and need the finances to invest into the business further. Our objective is 5x growth in 2022 compared to 2021. In 2021, we had $18k in revenue, 2022 we plan to end with $100k.  We are going to be looking at things not from a dollar value (but I am happy to share this too) but from a subscriber count and businesses we work with. This is because we believe compounding will be the best strategy to achieve our goals.

2022 Goals:

  1. 120 Subscribers 
  2. Work with 10 businesses

What the farm needs is a larger location for expansion. A building that is owned by the farm, allowing for growth in adding in more products such as lettuces, and edible flowers. As well as a roof to build an energy farm. This year is focused on getting the finances to invest into an owned space to kick off the dream. We are exploring adding public revenue-based goals that will trigger us to take action such as “If we are making $4000 a month, we purchase a building”. 

The Breakdown

We need to acquire 10 subscribers per month to achieve this goal, as well as 2.5 businesses we work with per quarter. Mathematically this subscriber count brings us to an approximate $93k in revenue per year at 3 containers sold per customer. B2B and farmers markets we anticipate will close the gap to $100k.

What does $100k in profits bring? It’s a tangible and exciting goal that I believe is fully achievable. Is this aggressive enough? Could we do more? It is aggressive given our bandwidth today, but we could outperform this objective given what I have been seeing in the industry. Considering that our team works full-time today, runs a business, and we have health issues to care about in our family as well, we believe that this goal is aggressive and achievable given these constraints.

What’s next?

We are going to be sharing updates on a monthly basis. You can expect an end of month recap, and an end of year recap to compare expectations vs. reality. I am also hoping to evolve the Open Source Farm concept for more transparency as we progress through 2022. All of the information will be shared in a blog format such as this one on our site, and we will notify of updates over email campaigns, and social media.

We hope you follow along with our startup, and find this type of content interesting. We are not perfect by any means and appreciate ideas or feedback! Let us know if we triggered inspiration or better ways of doing things!

What is the plan with the profits for 2022?

The business has self-financed itself quite well. In early 2021 we put in a few thousand into the infrastructure, and from there the business was able to carry itself. With growth however, we are in need of more equipment – and that equipment has only increased in cost. We will be working on slowly investing into doubling our infrastructure over the course of the next few months. We need more pumps, water reservoirs, lights, shelves, trays, flood tables, timers, and more. We anticipate the first quarter of 2022 to focus on investing into equipment. 

At the same time, we are investing into marketing campaigns. Utilizing Google Ads, and Facebook Ads to increase exposure of the farm. We are working on optimizing these ads, but are still in need of more data to validate what works, and doesn’t. These ads come up to about $500 a month at current levels.

The last major expense is paying for time. We are getting some additional help on the farm to increase our time availability on growth. We anticipate the first quarter to be $15 an hour, at 16 hour per week. This will definitely change as we grow, and especially when farmers markets pop up in Q2.

There will be more sources the profits will be going towards, such as taxes and smaller expenses of equipment to improve quality of life and time. I will not be keeping track of every single purchase (do you want to know about the delivery bag I just purchased for $17?) due to time constraints and it’s probably just not interesting. We may revisit this later.

In the monthly reports, we will be working on providing where investments are going, as this will likely be a dynamic. Our needs will change greatly throughout the year as we go, and being agile will be critical to our success.

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