From bomb shelter to farm: The latest food revolution
Food for thought
When you think of growing anything ‘underground’, the first thing you may envisage is some kind of criminal activity. But, there’s a food innovation gaining traction around the world, specially in London, and while it might be coming from beneath the streets, it’s all above board.
Here's what you need to know about the latest underground food revolution...
The fully-working Growing Underground farm is located 33 metres beneath the busy streets of Clapham, in the abandoned tunnels of a former World War II air raid shelter.
The urban farm covering 65,000 square feet lie 120 feet under Clapham High street and are home to 'Growing Underground', the UKs first underground farm. The farms produce includes pea shoots, rocket, wasabi mustard, red basil and red amaranth, pink stem radish, garlic chives, fennel and coriander, and supply to restaurants across London.
Salad without soil?
Urban farmers, Richard Ballard and Steven Dring are using the latest hydroponic systems and LED technology to grow fresh micro greens and salad leaves, in a stable, sustainable and pesticide-free environment.
A spigot supplies nutrients and water to the roots of the plants and artificial light and warmth is provided by LED lighting. The site is powered with renewable energy.
Instead of using soil, seeds are planted into mats made out of old carpet offcuts. Once the seeds germinate, they are put under lightsto mimic sunlight.
Science behind the sprouts
So what is hydroponics? According to the Royal Horticultural Society, it is “the science of growing plants without using soil, by feeding them on mineral nutrient salts dissolved in water.”
Hydroponics does not use soil, instead the root system is supported using an inert medium such as perlite, rockwool, clay pellets, peat moss, or vermiculite.
Location, location, location
Its central London location is convenient to distribute the vegetables to hotels, restaurants and shops, reducing the food miles for businesses and consumers. The farm also boasts using 77% less water than conventional agricultural methods.
The system is completely unaffected by the weather and seasonal changes, which means they can be grown 356 day a year.