About Us

Our Team

(Click on our faces and our bios will appear)

Mike Zak

Mike Zak

Co-Founder

Mike is Buffalo born and raised with chlorophyll in his blood. At a young age he knew, well not much, but when he grew up his vision was clear: If you grow it, they will come through. He has a Bachelor’s of Philosophy from the University at Buffalo, an associate’s degree in Humanities from Erie Community College, and 15 years of experience as an entrepreneur. He teaches occupational skills to at-risk youth at WNY YouthBuild, and is also the Board Chair at Buffalo Cooperative Federal Credit Union, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) credit union whose mission is to serve those who need it most in Buffalo, N.Y. Mike is a Buffalo native who grew up on the South East side in a single parent Union household. His passion is making Buffalo a more just and equitable place for our people and our environment.

Max Myers

Max Myers

Worker Owner/Aquaculture Specialist

Max is a typical third-culture kid.  He grew up overseas and spent his formative years getting lost in Singaporean monsoon drains chasing dragonflies and shoulders-deep in Kenyan scrub looking for chameleons.  He was born with a fascination and respect for the natural world and has a Bachelor of Science in Zoology from SUNY Oswego.  He’s a science man and passionate about sustainability and conservation and finds himself now as Gro-op’s resident fish boy.  An avid scuba diver, musical dilettante, bird enthusiast, and former wetland ecology lab technician – aquaponics was the logical next step.

Gro-Op Crew

Gro-Op Crew

Worker-Owners

The Gro-Op Crew is the heart and soul of Gro-Operative. Being a democratically owned worker cooperative means each worker-owner is important and shares the values of creating a more just and equitable Buffalo. (Oh and we all like farming and eating good food—but who doesn’t?)

Who We Are

Gro-Op is an aquaponic vertical farm in Buffalo, NY. We grow fresh food year-round in a controlled environment and operate on a closed loop system. We grow with organic food practices that have a low impact on our environment. We are a worker-owned cooperative where the employee’s democratically control the business and their future. We also offer education and job training opportunities in partnership with local schools to help keep jobs local.

Cooperatives 101

When we say cooperative we don’t just mean the basics of sharing and caring, though those are great too. Cooperatives are made to serve their members while interdependently strengthening the movement by working together through micro (local) and macro (worldwide) structures. In other words, we believe in hiring our dang selves and giving ourselves the power of employment. Gro-Op is a democratically owned worker cooperative so that means whether we expand or contract, we keep the people and our assets are changed—not the other way around. When you choose to work with us, you’re supporting a larger movement for the betterment of our hometown, the planet we share, and the overall cooperative movement. 

We’re proud to call Buffalo our home!

Building a better Buffalo is in our DNA. We partner with local schools to provide job training opportunities for at-risk and disadvantaged youth. We work with local community organizations to create opportunities for those that need it most in East Buffalo and the surrounding area.

Education & Job Training

Every time you order plants or donate to Gro-Op we are able to contribute that to our job training for at-risk youth and youth with mental and physical disabilities. We partner with local schools to teach sustainable agriculture and economics. We train a cohort of ten youth each year to learn about retail, farm, and grocery practices and engage youth that need these opportunities. 

We’re committed to a triple bottom line.

1) Our people, 2) our planet, and 3) profit for our people and our planet. We are locally and cooperatively owned. We are an aquaponic vertical farm that uses 90% less water and 80% less nutritional resources than conventional gardens. We keep food safe for folks by never using chemicals or herbicides in our plants. Our fertilizer comes from fish waste, fish waste comes from our fish, which are fed using beer production waste. It’s a closed loop system that is efficient, yet sustainable.