Growing Underground – Taking Urban Farming to Dark, Wonderful Places

When I think urban farming, I mostly think of hydroponics greenhouses on rooftops, or community gardens.  What I don’t think about is gardening underground.  But that’s just what an operation is doing in South London.

From CBS News

The farm Steven Dring operates in south London….is situated in an air raid shelter 100 feet underground that has been left vacant since World War II.

Dring, his co-founder, Richard Ballard, and a team of a dozen people grow lettuce and microgreens hydroponically, year-round, in the shelter, which includes two tunnels. The produce is then sold to restaurants and stores around London.

“It does seem completely counterintuive to build a farm underneath the soil, but it’s actually one of the best environments to do it,” Dring said.

“You’ve got that duvet of 100 feet of soil, which insulates the tunnel—it’s like someone’s built a greenhouse for us. You have LED lights and hydroponics, which has been around forever. We just put it all together and re-purpose an unloved space.”

The operation, called Growing Underground, is competitive with traditional farming because their model excludes many of the costs large agribusiness has to contend with, Dring said. The startup sells locally, meaning it doesn’t have to ship produce long distances. Another advantage is they don’t have to heat or cool the underground tunnel, which stays at steady temperature because it’s so far under the earth.

“The one cost that we have consistently all year round is our energy cost, the cost for the LED lighting,” Dring said. “Our seeds cost the same, our water costs the same, our nutrients cost the same.”


Edtor’s note;  The company, Growing Underground, has a website where it sells some of its produce online.

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