Growing UndergroundEthical Food & Drink News & Features
Growing Underground, London’s first subterranean farm, will start trading for the first time in mid-July.
The farm, in old World War II tunnels beneath the Northern Line at Clapham, is the brainchild of West Country entrepreneurs Richard Ballard and Steven Dring, in partnership with Michel Roux Jr, the Michelin-starred chef.
The concept has attracted huge interest from consumers and retailers as well as scientists and urban planners worldwide.
Ready for supply
The first phase of the farm, which includes a sophisticated lighting and irrigation system, is in the final stages of preparation for commercial supply. The farm’s first crops include pea shoots, several varieties of radish, mustard, coriander, Red Amaranth, celery, parsley and rocket.
‘I’m looking forward to creating my first dish using produce from the world’s first underground urban farm, less than two miles as the crow flies from the heart of London. It’s great to be involved in this ambitious project, for which we have equally ambitious growth plans. Above all, it’s fantastic to be able to source produce that is so fresh in the heart of Britain’s largest city.’
Michel Roux Jr
From bomb shelter to farm
The tunnels were used during World War II as a bomb shelter for London residents. The current site was designed to accommodate 8,000 Londoners, and a neighbouring site provides an expansion opportunity to create an invisible urban growing space of several acres.
100ft beneath Clapham High St, these forgotten tunnels are now using the latest hydroponic systems and LED technology to grow crops in a pesticide-free environment that these forgotten tunnels provide.
Crops are grown in a sealed clean-room environment with a bespoke ventilation system, advanced lighting and a sophisticated irrigation system, all of which allows the farm to produce crops at very low energy.
The mission is to deliver fresh produce with zero effect on the environment, and all energy for the farm is sourced from green suppliers.
A dynamic startup
The Mayor of London supported the original idea for the farm through his London Leaders business start-up programme.
‘This is a fine example of the dynamic startups that are helping London lead the world in green business innovation. I want even more entrepreneurs to help create these brilliant concepts that are delivering thousands of jobs and boosting London’s green economy to almost £30 billion a year. I wish Growing Underground every success.’
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London
Covent Garden market
Growing Underground’s first commercial client will be County Supplies London, supplying restaurants via Covent Garden market.
‘We’re delighted that our first shoots will be delivered to the surface in the next few weeks.
‘After 18 months of research, development, growing trials – and tribulations – we’re about to start supplying into the market.’
Richard Ballard, co-founder
Consumers will soon be able to buy produce from Growing Underground as well, with delivery via hyper-local supplier Farmdrop.
Click here to find out more about the Growing Underground project.