Sitting more than 100 feet below the bustling London streets is a World War II-era bomb shelter. Though it had previously remained empty for more than 70 years, the once-forgotten space has now been converted into a site of futuristic farming. Its long tunnels, specifically located beneath the Clapham district, are filled with stacked layers of hydroponic plant beds (forming “vertical farms”) that produce delicious and nutritious food. Entrepreneurs Richard Ballard and Steven Dring were the driving forces behind this conversion, forming the startup called Growing Underground.
Ballard and Dring's venture takes advantage of its sunless location and current technology to produce the best pesticide-free crops possible. They use energy-efficient LED lighting, and their system requires 70% less water than plants grown in open fields. A state-of-the-art computer also helps to keep produce consistent by automatically regulating temperature, nutrients and air flow, leaving little to human error or unpredictable weather conditions.
The proximity to London has many benefits for Growing Underground, one of them being a quick farm-to-table time. Their produce, such as a watercress, pea shoots, and radishes, can go from its subterranean locale to a ground-level restaurant in less than four hours. The prevalence of their brand will only increase as the site becomes fully operational. Once that's complete, it's estimated that they'll be able to produce between 11,000 and 44,000 pounds of crops each year.