Sustainable Farm in London Bomb Shelter
You hear a lot about green farming and sustainable living nowadays. With pressing environmental issues on the horizon, sales it is no wonder why the debate on the importance of green energy and sustainable living is becoming more important. And it should be so – preserving the environment is important, diagnosis just like developing new projects to incorporate the principles behind sustainable living.
One such is the project of Steven Dring and Richard Ballard, treatment who have taken advantage of unused bomb shelter under one of London’s most desirable areas, located just off Clapham high street. ‘Growing Underground’ is the name of the facility, and sustainable food production is its game. Normally you would expect the news to share insights on cleaning pollution from the water, or what improvements have been made towards creating more efficient vehicles, but this farm is something new.
The whole idea of building a farm underground came to Richard Ballard as he was producing a movie with main focus on the hidden spaces of the UK capital. This and his sustainable food production interest lead to the idea of utilising the space beneath the Northern Line tunnels at Clapham.
The duo behind the ingenious idea has been joined by Michelin-starred chef Michael Roux, who is the director of the company. He seems quite eager to test the produce: “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”.
The main focus of Growing Underground is peas, rocket, radish, parsley, celery, coriander, mustard and amaranth. All of these make sense growing underground, where conditions remain fairly constant and require little control. Normally you would expect such leafy vegetables to require heating, but the insulation of the underground bunker eliminates this need. The fact that temperatures remain fairly constant is yet another benefit.
- The design of the farm features beds at table height, on which the herbs and salads are grown hydroponically. Water enriched with nutrients floods these beds once a day and is then drained away.
- Subterranean crops require light. It is provided by LEDs in place of sunlight. This is a popular solution commonly found in horticulture. The 24 Watts LED emits a broad-spectrum light.
- The mission of the farm is to deliver fresh food without any negative side effect for the environment. For this reason, all energy needed for growing crops comes from green suppliers.
- Filters installed in the growing space underground help with cleaning the air and keeping pests at bay.
- The system is automated, meaning that everything is computer-controlled. Lighting, temperature, soil nutrients and air flow is monitored and adjusted automatically. For this reason, there is little need for cleaning.
- No pesticides are used to grow the plants, since the environment is controlled. Thanks to the location of the farm, being 100 feet below ground, pests are not a problem at all.
- The farm occupies 2.5 acres of space in the air raid shelters.
- One big plus of growing underground is that the rent is far more manageable than a warehouse in central London.
Produce is aimed for selling on New Covent Garden, which is just two miles away. High-end restaurants are one more target, since they are always looking for fresh local ingredients.
This fascinating project will likely not revolutionise farming, but it is certainly an interesting project worthy of admiration. It is the first of its kind in a British city, and hopefully will not be the last. Hopefully many will follow this example and make use of the abandoned space below London streets.