London entrepreneur repurposes bomb shelter for underground urban farm

London, England’s newest urban farm proves that with the right equipment, you can grow food just about anywhere.

The 1,805-square-foot carbon-neutral project has one of the strangest locations of any city horticulture project. It’s located 115 feet below a busy South London street, inside a sprawling World War Two air raid shelter. The new farm, run by the company Growing Underground, opened its doors to the press for the first time this week and will release its first crops onto the market later this month.

The methods Growing Underground uses to grow food on this unlikely site are ingenious, but already familiar. The company uses hydroponic techniques to create pesticide-free crops—typically green herbs and salad leaves such as pea shoots, coriander, and red amaranth. The plants grow on mats made from recycled carpet, watered mechanically and lit by ultraviolet light itself powered by renewable electricity sources. This might sound expensive, but in the U.K. at least, the sort of crops Growing Underground specializes in are already mostly grown hydroponically.

It’s the location that makes the project so striking. Located extremely close to Central London (and barely more than a mile from London’s wholesale produce market at New Covent Garden), the farm can get its crops onto restaurant plates within four hours of being harvested, which is both a boost to freshness and a fuel saver.

We’re fine-tuning some of the smaller details but basically ours is a model you could take to pretty much any brownfield site. You could put it in old disused mines, you could put in underground—anywhere in the world where you need to grow food,” says Growing Underground’s horticultural director , Chris Nelson.

[Photo credit: Growing Underground]

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