London's first underground farm, backed by Michel Roux Jr, prepares to open

29 June 2015 by
London's first underground farm, backed by Michel Roux Jr, prepares to open

Growing Underground, London's first subterranean farm - located in old World War Two bomb shelters beneath the Northern Line at Clapham - will start trading in mid-July.

The 2.5-acre farm is the brainchild of West Country foodie entrepreneurs Richard Ballard and Steven Dring and their firm Zero Carbon Food in partnership with Michel Roux Jr, the two-Michelin-starred chef of Le Gavroche. It represents an investment of £750,000.

Thanks to advancement in LED lighting technology, the former air raid shelter, near Clapham North, is able to produce plant-friendly temperatures 100ft below ground level.

The first phase of the farm, which includes a sophisticated lighting, irrigation and ventilation 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.

Roux said he was looking forward to creating his 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," he said. "Above all, it's fantastic to be able to source produce that is so fresh in the heart of Britain's largest city."

The farm will be supplying the wholesale Covent Garden market within a few weeks and plans to offer direct-to-consumer in the near future.

Crops are grown hydroponically in a sealed clean-room environment, which enables the farm to produce crops at very low energy. No soil is involved in the process; instead nutrient-rich water floods the beds once a day before being drained away slowly.

The current site, which has been leased by Zero Carbon Food for 25 years from its owner Transport for London, was designed to accommodate 8,000 Londoners during the Blitz.

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