London's first subterranean farm goes into production

London's first subterranean farm goes into production

Growing Underground, London’s first subterranean farm, will start trading for the first time in mid-July. 

The farm, in old World War II tunnels beneath the Northern Line at Clapham, is the brainchild of West Country entrepreneurs Richard Ballard and "London Leader" Steven Dring, in partnership with Michel Roux Jr, the Michelin-starred chef. Last year the farm successfully completed a crowd funding round that was oversubscribed. 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”, said 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 £750,000 investment in sustainable urban farming for London and we’re delighted to be fulfilling our first orders within weeks,” said co-founder Steven Dring.

Michel Roux Jr said: “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.”

The Mayor of London, who supported the original idea for the farm through the LSDC's London Leaders business start-up programme, welcomed the launch. 

The Mayor Boris Johnson said: “This is a fine example of the dynamic startups that are helping London lead the world in green business innovation. I want even more entrepreneurs to help create these brilliant concepts that are delivering thousands of jobs and boosting London's green economy to almost £30 billion a year. I wish Growing Underground every success.”

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

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 neighboring site provides an expansion opportunity to Growing Underground, creating an invisible urban growing space of several acres. 

The London Leaders programme was established by the London Sustainable Development Commission in 2008.  The programme aims to bring together some of the most exciting and innovative new leaders in sustainable business and communities supporting them to demonstrate sustainability in action and the contribution of green entrepreneurs to the London economy and the city’s quality of life. 

More information on the farm here: 

Hear Steven talking about the farm and his experience with the London Leaders programme here: