Far below the streets of central London lies a former World War Two bomb shelter that has been repurposed into a hi-tech underground vertical farm. It supplies grocery stores, restaurants, and farmer’s markets in the capital with fresh, pesticide-free microgreens.
Called Growing Underground, the farm is run by entrepreneurs Richard Ballard and Steven Dring who, in 2015, saw a valuable opportunity to bolster the city’s green economy by breathing new life into one of London’s several underground WW2 bomb shelters. The project then grew to become the “world’s first subterranean farm”
Lying at 10 stories below ground level, Growing Underground is powered by 100 percent renewable energy, and makes use of climate-controlled elements such as LED heating and recycled water. Lit by a purple hue, the farm features numerous rows of greens like watercress and micro rocket, as well as herbs like Thai basil and garlic chives.
As reported by Euronews, the plant environment is soil-free, using a recycled carpet instead. Because of its material structure, the carpet provides the perfect conditions for the plants to grow, aided by 18 hours of LED lighting and automated feeding each day.
According to the founders, the farm’s climate-controlled hydroponic technology guarantees a yield of 60 harvests a year. By comparison, traditional farming — which is subject to environmental and supply-related challenges — would yield less than 10 of the same harvests in a good year.
The impact potential of localized urban farming is huge. By 2050, our food production needs to increase by 70 percent in order to feed the world’s population which is growing at an exponential rate. The innovative technique also benefits the environment by removing the need for deforestation, as well as cutting emissions associated with shipping produce.
So far, Growing Underground has retail partnerships with supermarket giant M&S and premium store Whole Foods, and it is also supplying Michelin starred restaurants with fresh and tasty microgreen salads. By sourcing their products locally, customers also benefit from a longer lifespan for their fresh goods.
Image source: Growing Underground