Playa-friendly structures bode well for greenhouses, aquaponics
Geodesic domes are regular fixtures at Burning Man, so you’ve probably seen pictures of them, if nothing else. Weather resistant, naturally strong and surprisingly portable, they’re credited to inventor Buckminster Fuller, and they look like the love children of a jungle gym and the Silver Legacy sphere, perhaps with a diamond ring shining somewhere in the family tree. The curious shelters also work as greenhouses, and Black Rock Domes builder Dominic Kukulica says they’re ideal for aquaponics—an almost-closed-loop farming system wherein fish live under plants, fertilizing the flora with their waste and getting filtered water in the process.
Making the domes “has been a nice little side business,” says Kukulica, 25, who often builds the steel-pipe structures in his Reno backyard, and otherwise works as a firefighter in California. “I’m all about getting people to go green, to stay away from the GMOs and all the bad food, and just do it yourself.”
A greenhouse dome is “just a greenhouse,” he adds. “There’s nothing too special about it, other than the fact that it’s got so much space on the inside that it can retain heat a lot better than a lot of other, smaller structures.”
Said heat rises and eventually circulates again, helping plants fend off winter frost, and solar energy can be harnessed to power fans, pond pumps and other equipment inside the domes, which range in price from $250 to more than $4,000. Their shape makes coverage a little awkward, Kukulica explains, “but the plastic’s strong enough to withstand wind, and you can heat it so it shrinks right on there like a drum.” Spandex works well, too, especially on the playa.
In early July, Kukulica built a massive greenhouse for a Reno client who’ll go nameless here. (Greenhouses are used to grow all sorts of things, you know.) Gardening devotee Margo Mulvihill also has one in her sprawling plot on the corner of Wells Avenue and Ryland Street. Kukulica offered her the 23-foot dome a few months ago when he saw the variety of vegetables Mulvihill shares with her friends and neighbors, some of whom are homeless. The eye-catching structure is empty at the moment, but in cooler weather, it’ll house an aquaponic system.
“I vote for catfish,” says Mulvihill, a professor and physicist by trade who’s dubbed herself an “eccentric old-lady scientist.” Kukulica introduced her to the whole aquaponic notion—one she finds compelling—but “right now, we’re not doing much with it because its summer, and he’s very busy and making a lot of money, I hope.”
Kukulica simply says he’s generating enough income to support his young daughter. He figures he’s sold around 400 of his creations to domestic buyers as well as ones in Canada and Mexico.
“There’s a million ways as to what you want to do with it,” he says of the dome concept. “It’s anybody’s choice.”