Angelica Rocha inherited her grandfather's green thumb to build her first green wall, complete with 50 fish! The minnows form a vital link in her new aquaponics vertical garden at the EcoCenter on San Francisco Bay. This Berkeley student is on a fast track to make the world a lot more green, so meet her now and say you knew her when.
Just completed in December at the EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park, the 84-pocket living wall is Angelica’s internship triumph. “Kids love it!” she says. “I think the EcoCenter is happy to house such an amazing piece of living space.”
The nutrient-rich water from the fish tank feeds the plants, creating a closed cycle system that is a perfect example of sustainable urban living ─ what the EcoCenter is all about.
Eternally curious, Angelica had experimented at home with vertical gardens. Since she was so interested in them and horticulture, "The EcoCenter project spoke to me,” she says.
Perhaps also because her grandfather and uncles were agriculture and landscaping professionals in Mexico before coming to the U.S. She dove into learning about Plants On Walls and Florafelt, too. “I was amazed at the projects. Each one is absolutely beautiful. I was so impressed, I had to learn more.”
Angelica arrived at the EcoCenter through a course, Applied Research in Sustainability, at City College of San Francisco. She now studies environmental management at UC Berkeley, after earning her bachelor’s degree last year in recreation, parks and tourism administration at San Francisco State University.
An amazing community and education center, the EcoCenter brings sustainable power, water and wastewater systems to life. It’s the first LEED Platinum - Zero Net Energy Building in San Francisco. Here you’ll discover a living roof, rainwater harvesting, constructed wetlands and much more.
Angelica helped run the popular Science Saturday programs that foster public interaction, and gave tours that required deep knowledge of San Francisco's watershed, Eco Center's wastewater treatment, biomimicry, environmental design and local wildlife.
For the aquaponics living wall, Angelica worked with Florafelt CEO Chris Bribach, who advised her at each step. Kids and adults alike had fun root-wrapping the native plants.
Assembly of the Aquaponic Vertical Garden
“I believe vertical gardens are the best solution for greening the urban environment. They require little space and make a big impact inside and outside,” she says. “They benefit the environment and ourselves ─ improving air quality, reducing particulate level, reducing stress, increasing productivity, and more.
“The EcoCenter is right on the waterfront of San Francisco Bay, one of the most invaded watersheds in the world. I wanted to bring in marsh plants, similar to ones you'd see outside, as a talking point for how our watersheds filter themselves.”
What’s next for this intrepid intern? Big goals, of course: making her mark in green infrastructure and environmental planning, and adding more vertical gardens to the world. She also plans to complete a 20-day hike along the John Muir Trail from Yosemite to Mount Whitney.