Imagine looking out across a vast plain, a winding strip of green cuts across an otherwise arid landscape.
We immediate recognize this as a river, life springing up in an unexpected place. That’s aquaponics.
This naturally closed-loop, hyper-efficient system for growing plants holds tremendous potential to solve one of
the world’s most pressing environmental issues: feeding the ever-growing human population in densely packed
cities. When combined with recent innovations and new sustainable energy technologies, derelict warehouses
can be transformed into thriving ecosystems that churn out remarkably pure produce precisely where it’s most
For Mark Hintzke, Executive Director of Growing Up Farms, discovering aquaponics was like coming back
home. “For whatever reason, waste reduction has always been a passion of mine,” he says. As a child, Mark
witnessed first-hand the inherent inefficiency in his father’s construction business. And from an early age, the
concept of waste got under his skin. Young Mark was always using his father’s cast offs to make stuff, cobbling
together one man’s trash into a child’s treasure. Many years later while leading efforts to rebuild a monastery in
Mongolia, he marveled at the locals’ ability to turn what in our country would be destined for the city dump into
Seeking to make a tangible impact on the world, Mark dedicated two decades of his life to non-profit and
development work throughout the United States and across the planet. In Mongolia where Mark rebuilt
deteriorating monasteries, he reveled in his group’s ability to do so much good with such limited resources. The
experience, he says, taught him just how much impact well-organized, committed people can have on the
communities in which they serve.
Years of work combating homelessness in America had taught Mark that food security wasn’t just a pressing in
the developing world – there was plenty of need right here at home. He returned to the Bay Area from
Mongolia, eager to put his experience to work in his own community. And when he stumbled upon aquaponics,
it all clicked. Here was a system for growing food that all but eliminated waste, and with modern technology it
enabled food to be grown in the heart of a city where the working poor have few options for clean, healthy
food. Here was his chance to bring food security to the millions of Americans living in urban food deserts where
French fries are tenfold easier to find than a fresh tomato.
Growing Up Farms has an ambitious vision: Develop a cutting edge lab where experimentation and brilliant
design unite to build indoor, vertical, acquaponic food growing systems that can solve one of the world’s most
pressing environmental issues: feeding the ever-growing human population in densely packed cities. And for
Mark, it’s all about getting the snowball rolling downhill. “San Francisco has such a wealth of brilliant, innovative
and passionate people. Once we fully tap into the network we have here, there’s no telling how many people we