Founded in 2016 by Dale and Angela Speetjens, Shipshape Urban Farms (SUF) emerged from a shared passion for sustainable agriculture and innovative farming. Dale's expertise in environmental design, landscape architecture, and city planning, paired with Angela's horticultural background and hydroponic knowledge, propelled their mission to revolutionize sustainable farming. In the summer of 2017, SUF officially launched as a proposed urban farm in Mobile, Alabama, introducing modular hydroponic farms housed within a single shipping container. Recognizing their model's potential beyond the local community, Dale and Angela crafted a visionary business plan to empower others and address broader food security concerns. While operating their initial container farm, they laid the foundation for a network of agripreneurs, poised to cultivate fresh produce in compact spaces.
The pandemic prompted reflection and adaptation. Dale and Angela reimagined their farming approach, giving rise to a system capable of producing the equivalent of 5 acres of greens within a mere 500 square feet. As SUF welcomed its inaugural customer, Dale and Angela's inspiration soared. They saw the far-reaching potential of their innovative approach and expanded their vision, committed to making a significant global impact.
Looking ahead, Shipshape Urban Farms continues its journey towards sustainability. Their aspirations include pioneering regenerative agriculture and envisioning the world's first 3D printed hydroponic farm, a fusion of technology and precision. A sustainable ethos remains at their core as they work towards a net-zero farm powered by renewable energy. In their unwavering commitment to a holistic approach, Shipshape designs living structures that blend seamlessly with the environment, embodying regenerative principles for a truly sustainable future.
Our Core Values
Justice: Ensuring access to healthy food is a fundamental right, not a privilege.
Innovation: We constantly seek new ways to revolutionize farming through cutting-edge technology and creative thinking.
Resilience: We tackle challenges with determination, embracing adversity as an opportunity to grow and thrive.
Inclusion: Foster a culture of inclusivity where individual authenticity is celebrated, and diverse perspectives are embraced to enrich our collective mission and purpose.
Camaraderie: Embrace moments of levity to foster a vibrant and fulfilling workplace.
Inspired by the term "shipshape," a salute to Dale's military service and a representation of meticulous precision, our company's name embodies our commitment to crafting vertical farms that operate with impeccable efficiency. Just as a ship's components harmonize to navigate the seas, Shipshape Urban Farms integrates innovative technology and sustainable practices to chart a course for vertical farming toward a future where technology and sustainability seamlessly intertwine.
Meet the C-Team
Co-founder/CEO/Board of Directors
Kenneth Dale Speetjens
Dale Speetjens is an accomplished entrepreneur, designer, and planner with a wealth of expertise. His skills encompass CEA, Systems Design, ArcGIS, Design Thinking, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning. Dale tackles design challenges with a meticulous and data-driven approach, favoring analytical solutions to intricate problems. As Shipshape's Founder and CEO, his visionary leadership played a pivotal role in securing support from Techstars and Gener8tor for the company. He boasts a successful history in the design, planning, and higher education sectors, underpinned by dual master’s degrees in Community and Regional Planning and Landscape Architecture, as well as a BS in Environmental Design from Auburn University.
Co-founder/CSO/Board of Directors
Angela Speetjens is an accomplished alumna of Auburn University, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a BS in Horticulture, specializing in fruit and vegetable production. Her professional journey encompassed diverse roles, beginning with nearly a decade in the dental field ranging from dental and surgical assisting to management. However, it wasn't until she co-founded Shipshape Urban Farms in 2016 that her deep-rooted passions for sustainability, innovation, and community nourishment found their full expression. Throughout her academic path, Angela's hands-on skills flourished as she developed and managed a hydroponic system within a greenhouse. Today, as the Chief Science Officer of Shipshape Urban Farms, Angela seamlessly integrates her enthusiasm for sustainable farming with innovative cultivation methodologies.
Emanuel brings over two decades of dedicated experience across diverse business sectors, showcasing his adeptness in dynamic work environments. His talent for managing multiple tasks while meeting deadlines is underpinned by his unwavering determination and a genuine passion for achieving impactful results. Emanuel pursued Engineering/Mechanical studies at ITT Tech in Duluth, GA and his expertise extends to specialized training in various domains, encompassing Siemens Operational Training for Software Systems, Automation, as well as a range of mechanical systems and technologies. Throughout his career, Emanuel has achieved notable milestones, including a leadership role where he guided a team of 150 employees at oil refinery in Pascagoula, Mississippi oil refinery in setting an impressive record of surpassing OSHA’S One Million Safe Work Hours without a single injury incident.
Nicholas Shepherd is a seasoned serial entrepreneur, well-versed in startups, grant writing, and product design. He holds an esteemed degree in agronomy and biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he graduated with honors. Demonstrating proficiency in CAD, laboratory procedures, and ISO compliance, Nicholas has played pivotal roles in the inception and advancement of numerous startups, boasting several successful exits. Following his latest achievement, he became a valuable addition to the Shipshape Team as the CTO. His expertise is instrumental in propelling the company's technological advancement and innovation.
Board of Directors
Board member/advisor / CEO of Oscity Labs
Michael C. "Mike" Dow
Michael C. "Mike" Dow, a distinguished Vietnam War veteran, completed three combat tours with the U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade’s 335th Assault Helicopter (Cowboys) and The Casper (Ghost). After his military service, he earned an MBA from the USA and co-founded Quality Micro Systems (QMS), a successful electronics startup listed on the New York Stock Exchange and later acquired by Minolta. Currently, Dow is the Co-Founder of Oscity Labs, dedicated to enhancing the hemp and cannabis industry to address veteran well-being and reduce issues like PTSD and addiction. Dow's 16-year tenure as Mayor of Mobile witnessed significant achievements, including a $2.2B “String of Pearls” downtown revitalization, tourism expansion, and over $8B foreign manufacturing investment, jobs, and tax base recruited by Team Mobile during his administration. His visionary leadership brought about many transformative projects and secured investments from entities like the Retirement Systems of Alabama. Dow's impact earned him prestigious honors, and his involvement extends across numerous local, state, and national public and private sector boards.
Board member/advisor /Managing Partner, MVY consulting
Jeff Levy has 25 years experience in deal making - as a founder, CEO, and investor. Notably, he played a pivotal role as the co-founder and vice-chair of Media Metrix (NASDAQ MMXI), a venture that cemented his prowess in the entrepreneurial landscape. Jeff went on to found eHatchery, the first e-commerce incubator and seed fund in the southeast. Jeff was also the founding sponsor of Lamberts Cove Acquisition Company (second generation SPAC). Most recently, Jeff facilitated the raising of over $75 million in equity and successfully negotiated strategic agreements with Walmart Health and HCA. He holds degrees from both Harvard College and Harvard Law School.
Advisor / Lt. General (Ret)
Lt. General (Ret) Willie J. Williams
Willie Williams, a 1974 Cum Laude graduate of Stillman College, concluded his nearly 40-year tenure as a Lieutenant General in the United States Marine Corps in 2013. Commissioned post-Stillman, he held diverse leadership roles in logistics, supply chain, and infrastructure, accumulating over thirteen years as a general officer. Alongside his military career, Williams pursued academic excellence, earning an MBA from National University, San Diego, and a MS in Strategic Resources Management from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University, Washington, DC. Notable honors include honorary doctorates and multiple leadership awards. Post-retirement, he founded WWilliams Consulting, LLC, and remains active in community and charity work. Residing in New Market, Alabama, Williams is focused on nurturing compassionate leadership through the LtGen Willie J. Williams Institute, contributing to his enduring legacy.
Advisor / CEO of Incompas
Chip Pickering has been CEO of INCOMPAS since January 2014. During that time, INCOMPAS has achieved significant growth with leading internet, backbone, business broadband, wireless, and international companies. Under his leadership, INCOMPAS has led numerous public policy campaigns promoting competition through an open internet and in the business broadband market.
Pickering was a six-term Congressman representing Mississippi’s Third District. During his time in the House, he served on the Energy & Commerce Committee, where he was vice chairman from 2002 to 2006 and a member of the Telecommunications Subcommittee.
He also was co-chairman and founder of the Congressional Wireless Caucus and an assistant minority whip of the House. Previously, Chip worked for Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and served as a staff member on the Senate Commerce Committee, where he helped shape the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Because of his role in drafting the 1996 Act, he became well known as a Congressional leader on telecommunications issues. While in Congress, Chip served as chair of the subcommittee overseeing the transition to the commercial internet, the establishment of domain names, registries, and internet governance. He also successfully led a bipartisan legislative effort to codify net neutrality principles through the House in 2006.
Prior to joining INCOMPAS, Chip was a partner with Capitol Resources LLC, a public affairs and government relations firm, where he represented an array of telecom clients, including wireless, cable and competitive broadband providers, as well as non-profits and companies specializing in education, energy, technology and defense.
Advisor / Professor at Al A&M
Ernst Cebert, Ph.D.
Dr. Cebert, with a PhD in "Plant Breeding & Genetics" from Purdue University in 1998, has been at the forefront of innovative research. During his time at Purdue, he focused on hybridizing wheat and oats to enhance disease resistance, cold tolerance, adaptability, and yield. His groundbreaking work on the "Genetics Analysis of Hessian Fly Resistance Gene in Durum Wheat" led to the identification of a new gene (H26) for Hessian fly resistance. In 2001, he was appointed Research Assistant Professor at Alabama A&M University, initiating a pioneering winter canola breeding program for Northern Alabama and the Mid-South region. Through classical breeding and molecular markers, he developed canola lines for diverse applications including phytoremediation, forage, vegetables, and biodiesel feedstock. Dr. Cebert's contributions extend to non-traditional crop evaluation for biofuels, bio-energy crop rotations, and small-scale biodiesel production. He collaboratively developed a mobile Biodiesel Classroom on Wheels and expanded renewable energy efforts at AAMU, including joining the Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI), a Department of Energy consortium. In 2019, he spearheaded Alabama's inaugural industrial hemp pilot program. With a remarkable educational journey spanning Purdue University, Alabama A&M University, and Alabama A&M University, Dr. Cebert has consistently pushed the boundaries of agricultural innovation.
Advisor / CEO of Innovation Depot
Brooke Gillis is a seasoned leader in the tech startup space with a passion for advancing local startup communities. With her experience as a Program Manager at Techstars, she launched the first-ever Alabama EnergyTech accelerator program. Before taking on the role of CEO at Innovation Depot, Brooke had already worked with Innovation Depot in multiple capacities, including an 8+ year run with Instagift, a Birmingham startup with roots in The Depot. She played an instrumental role in designing and developing the Velocity Accelerator that ran in the building for 6 years. Brooke's relentless entrepreneurial drive fuels her passion for building vibrant startup ecosystems.
Advisor/Vice President at Ultratech Capital Partners/Lieutenant US Navy
Dr. Tim Denning
Dr. Tim Denning is a seasoned GovCon growth and operations executive, experienced venture investor and accomplished academic who has led organizations in achieving their strategic goals. He has a strong servant-leader, service-oriented approach and experience leading both large organizations and small teams. He possesses extensive experience in Federal and State level contracting and is a corporate development, strategy, business development, contracting, venture investing, and fundraising expert. Tim has led and been a critical part of teams that have closed many deals, winning billions of dollars in contract value and has supported nearly $2B of M&A transactions.
Currently, Tim is the Vice President of Ultratech Capital Partners, a Damazein company. Ultratech provides flexible capital to innovative technology enterprises developing software, systems, and processes deemed essential for long term national security, that solve key generational challenges and are highly transferrable across multiple sectors. As insiders with a focus on early to growth stage companies that demonstrate compelling investment factors and can become pureplay enterprises of scale and scarcity, we add value to our investments, helping them realize their greatest potential growth. If you are a dual-use, deep tech company, send Tim your pitch: email@example.com
Tim completed his Doctoral studies in Public Administration at West Chester University in PA, with a focus on technology and services acquisition within the US DoD, and is a member of the Pi Alpha Alpha Honor Society. He has an MA cert in Contracts and Procurement Management from the University of Virginia. He earned an MBA in Finance and MA in Political Science, as a Community Fellow, from Lehigh University, as well as a BA in Psychology from Johns Hopkins University.
Tim is engaged in a variety of service-oriented endeavors. His service to the nation includes his Commission as a US Naval Reserve Supply Officer where he is the Administrative Officer and Training Officer for the Naval Reserve Command Naval Air Forces (CNAL) unit in Norfolk, VA.
He is a Term Member with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and serves on Lehigh University’s MBA Council, which works with the Dean and the administration of the College of Business to enhance the MBA program. Tim is also on the Board of PathForward (formerly A-SPAN) serving as Chairman, the Board of the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA) as Chair of the Development Committee, and NSL4A’s Steering Committee serving as Executive Director.
Advisor/ FarmHER / 2021 Woman of the Year in Agriculture
Experienced executive with a demonstrated history of working in bridging the gap in sustainable economic opportunity for smallholder producers that includes a systemic approach to economic development from the farm to the consumer. Skilled in Nonprofit Organizations, Aquaculture and Agriculture Facility Design, Agricultural Technology, Instructional Design, and Team Building. Strong business development professional that graduated from the University of North Florida, Cornell University’s SC Johnson School of Business Produce Executive program and Rollins College Crummer School of Business Social Entrepreneur RALLY SEA fellow (Winter 2020). Florida’s 2021 Woman of the Year in Agriculture.
Paul Taylor was a Shipshape's Urban Farms lead mentor during the 2022 Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Excelerator. Taylor is a fourth career professional and in his 14th year as a startup mentor. He is active with Techstars having volunteered as a mentor with Alabama EnergyTech, FarmToFork and MN Twins accelerators.
Advisor / President of Rogers & Willard Inc.
Rogers is a 1987 graduate of Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in building science. He is president of Rogers & Willard Inc., a general contracting firm working primarily in the Southeastern states. He is past chairman of Alabama Contemporary Art Center, has served on the board of Alabama Coastal Foundation and served as a trustee for The Nature Conservancy of Alabama. He is a past president of Associated Builders and Contractors of South Alabama and has also served on the board of the Alabama Architectural Foundation. He presently serves on the House Corporation of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity at Auburn, the board of UMS-Wright Preparatory School and the Mobile Chamber of Commerce executive board. He is the current chair of Auburn’s College of Architecture, Design and Construction executive board. At Auburn he is a life member of the Auburn Alumni Association, a member of the Foy Society, the Samford Society and the Circle of Excellence Society.