London’s new underground farm is nearly open for business. We’ve reported on Growing Underground in the past, when the founders used crowdfunding to raise money for their equipment. This week, the city’s first subterranean farmis nearing completion of ‘phase one’ of production, putting the producers just a few weeks away from delivering the first harvest of pea shoots, radishes, and celery to commercial customers.
Growing Underground is the brainchild of West Country entrepreneurs Richard Ballard and Steven Dring, in partnership with Michel Roux Jr, the Michelin-starred chef. The farm is housed in a disused World War II tunnel under Clapham and will utilize around 2.5 acres of tunnels once the future phases of setup are complete.
For now, the founders are reveling in the launch after several years of planning, research, and fundraising. “We’re delighted that our first shoots will be delivered to the surface in the next few weeks”, said Ballard said in a press release. “After eighteen months of research, development, growing trials – and tribulations – we’re about to start supplying into the market.”
Phase one crops include pea shoots, several varieties of radish, mustard, cilantro, Red Amaranth, celery, parsley, and arugula. The crops are grown in a sealed clean-room environment with a custom ventilation system, advanced lighting, and a sophisticated irrigation system that enables the farm to produce crops using very little energy.
Dring says phase one is the result of a cumulative £750,000 ($1.1 million USD) investment in sustainable urban farming for London, and the founders hope their ideas will spread, like their future crops, around the world. Growing Underground’s mission is to deliverdelicious microgreens with zero environmental impact, while sourcing all necessary energy from green suppliers.
London’s Mayor Boris Johnson has supported the idea for the farm through his London Leaders business start-up program. Johnson was on hand to celebrate the launch, and called the farm a “fine example of the dynamic startups that are helping London lead the world in green business innovation.”
The next phase of development for Growing Underground, which will happen soon, will see its distribution expanded to the general public via the hyper-local supplier Farmdrop.