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Underground farm takes root beneath city streets

August 2015

A farm has been created to grow food with only minimal effects on the environment – below the streets of London.
The enterprise, the world’s first underground farm, is at Clapham, 33 metres down and two miles south of the city centre.
It occupies almost forgotten, disused Second World War tunnels, formerly used as a bomb shelter for up to 8,000 Londoners.
No pesticides are used and water consumption is 70% lower than in traditional outdoor farming thanks to the hydroponics method of growing plants without soil but in water containing mineral nutrients. Energy use for lighting and irrigation is low and is sourced entirely from green suppliers.
West Country entrepreneurs Richard Ballard and Steven Dring, who have developed the farm in partnership with the Michelin-starred celebrity chef Michel Roux Jr, believe their efforts will reduce the need for imported food and cut the distances covered by carriers supplying wholesalers, retailers and customers.
They say their produce will not travel outside the M25, the road encircling Greater London, and could be in domestic kitchens within four hours of being picked and packed. The crops include pea shoots, radishes, mustard, coriander, red amaranth, celery, parsley and rocket. The first deliveries were due this month.
One great advantage is that crops can be produced all year round as they are unaffected by the usual weather variations.
Ballard and Dring are aiming ultimately at a zero environmental impact and hope to obtain carbon-neutral certification. They are also looking forward to increasing production as neighbouring tunnels are available for expansion.
Roux is enthusiastic: “It’s great to be involved in this ambitious project, for which we have ambitious growth plans. Above all, it’s fantastic to source produce so fresh in the heart of Britain’s largest city.”
Further information: 

Growing Underground | UK & NI Ireland | Sustainability


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