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A New Use For Swimming Pools: Growing Food

With the Growing Pool aquaponic greenhouse, now folks in the suburbs can turn their pool into a productive oasis.

A New Use For Swimming Pools: Growing Food
[Photo: Flickr user Lars Plougmann]

In the hot summer months, it might be a shame to use a swimming pool for anything other than splashing around in. But then turning your pool into a highly productive growing system is more practical. It’s also cheaper, overall.

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Dennis and Danielle McClung pioneered the Growing Pool–a solar-powered aquaponic greenhouse–back in 2009, shortly after buying a foreclosed home in Mesa, Arizona. They didn’t want to spend time and money doing up the eyesore in the backlot. And, besides, they’d always wanted to be more self-sufficient.

Since then, a host of imitators have come up with their own Garden Pools, based on how-to instructions the McClungs have posted online. Actually, it doesn’t seem that difficult. First, you surround the perimeter with a metal frame and add poles to support a plastic covering. Then, you mount some solar panels to run the water pumps. Then, you put in a chicken coop, tilapia fish (in the deep end) and some plants.

The idea is that chicken waste falls into the tank, which feeds the fish. The fish provide nutrient-rich water, which is pumped to the plants, which grow and feed the McClungs. The whole system uses a fraction of the water employed for soil-based growing–one of the main attractions of aquaponics.

See more in the video here. The McClungs claim to be saving 50-75% on a typical food bill, though they do have the expense of maintaining their creation.

According to Grist, which spoke to the McClungs recently, there are now a dozen replicas in the Phoenix area, with up to three dozen more under construction across the country. There’s also a project under way in Haiti.

It’s a shame not to go swimming every day. But you can see the attraction: cheap, fresh food every day, and no food miles.

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Dennis McClung says in the film: “The garden pool is a great way to showcase that any family can grow their own food, regardless of their climate. If we can grow it here in the suburbs of Phoenix, then people can grow their food anywhere.”

The new edition of the DIY book is here. It’s only $40.

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About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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