Growing Underground, London’s first subterranean farm, will start trading for the first time in mid-July.
Last year the farm successfully completed a crowd funding round that was oversubscribed.
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.
The first phase of the farm, which includes a sophisticated lighting and irrigation system, is in the final stages of preparation for commercial supply. Phase one crops include pea shoots, several varieties of radish, mustard, coriander, Red Amaranth, celery, parsley and rocket.
“We’re delighted that our first shoots will be delivered to the surface in the next few weeks”, says co-founder Richard Ballard. “After eighteen months of research, development, growing trials – and tribulations – we’re about to start supplying into the market.”
“Phase one represents more than GBP750,000 investment in sustainable urban farming for London and we’re delighted to be fulfilling our first orders within weeks,” says co-founder Steven Dring.
Michel Roux Jr says: “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.”
Crops are grown in a sealed clean-room environment with a bespoke ventilation system, advanced lighting and a sophisticated irrigation system that enable the farm to produce crops at very low energy. The farm’s mission is to deliver fresh produce with zero effect on the environment and all energy is sourced from green suppliers.
Growing Underground’s first commercial client will be County Supplies London, supplying restaurants via Covent Garden market. A consumer offering will follow in the near future, with delivery via hyper-local supplier Farmdrop.co.uk.
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. A neighbouring site provides an expansion opportunity to Growing Underground, creating an invisible urban growing space of several acres.