London’s Largest Farm is Hidden in an Underground Bomb Shelter
What do you do with an old WWII bomb shelter? Well, if you’re entrepreneur Steven Dring, you turn it into a hydroponic herb farm. Londoners might not know it, but thirty three feet below the bustling city street is the largest farm in the city, providing many top tier restaurants with fresh produce.
Zero Carbon Food is a subterranean farm where crops like pea shoots, coriander, mustard leaf, rocket, radish and garlic chive, thrive in an old bomb shelter without any pesticides or natural sunlight. Energy-efficient LED lights provide the sun substitute and the farm uses 70 percent less water than a traditional greenhouse. As co-founder Steve Dring explains, it’s all about finding the right way to utilize city space.
“The whole system runs automatically, with an environmental computer controlling the lighting, temperature, nutrients and air flow. We’ve got to utilize the spaces we’ve got. There’s a finite amount of land and we can grow salads and herbs – which start losing flavor and quality as soon as you cut them – in warehouses and rooftops in cities near the people who will eat them.”
Dring’s ideas have proven fruitful, and led Zero Carbon Food to partnerships with food delivery company Farmdrop and Michelin star chef Michel Roux. The startup is also in talks with taking their underground crops to mass organic grocery chain Whole Foods.
Growing all the ingredients needed for a dinner salad hundreds of feet underground might seem like a tricky task, but founders Richard Ballard with Steven Dring have a lot of space to work with. The duo isn’t even using all of the tunnel space, but estimate they’ll be producing between 5,000 kilograms and 20,000 kilograms of crops per year, delivering a turnover of 1.3 million pounds.
Zero Carbon Foods isn’t alone in its mission to turn massive urban spaces into food-producing farms, either. Aerofarms in Newark, New Jersey will be the world’s largest indoor farm when it launches in November of 2015 and will produce an estimated 1,000 tons of greens a year.
What this all boils down to is that as the population continues to grow, we’ll have to find new and innovative ways to produce food – and that won’t always mean growing crops in an open field or traditional greenhouse. Who knows, cities may one day have skyscrapers dedicated solely to the purpose of growing your salad ingredients.