One hundred feet beneath London’s streets is a network of tunnels. Not the Underground tunnels that shuttle millions of commuters and tourists back and forth across the city but a series of passageways that were used to shelter people during the air raids of World War II.
Richard Ballard and Steven Dring, a pair of entrepreneurs from the west of England, have today initiated a crowdfunding project called ‘Growing Underground’ with the backing of Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr.
The duo has 58 days to raise the £300,000 necessary to fund their project which would see 2.5acres of these underground tunnels transformed into a subterranean farm, nurturing fresh produce for London restaurants, supermarkets and wholesalers.
Located beneath the Northern Line near Clapham North tube station, the designated tunnels are to house specially-designed structures to enable three layers of plant growth. This process has been tested in Yorkshire over the past 18 months.
Due to the site depth 100ft below street level, the tunnels enjoy a stable temperature of 16°C all year round, meaning that production can continue throughout the year and additional energy costs can be kept to a minimum. Any additional energy will be sourced from green suppliers.
Produce lists currently include Pea Shoots, Rocket, Red Amaranth, Mizuna, Broccoli, Garlic Chives, Red Vein Sorrel, Mustard Leaf, Radish, Coriander and Thai Basil. “When I first met these guys I thought they were absolutely crazy,” admits Michel Roux Jr, “but when I visited the tunnels and sampled the delicious produce they are already growing down there I was blown away. The market for this produce is huge.”
Richard Ballard said: “Steve and I are thrilled to be close to getting Growing Underground underway. We’ve been experimenting for months. Now that we’ve secured the site we’re kicking off a crowd-funding campaign today. We have a detailed business plan and we’ve already had lots of interest from private investors.
“We’re confident that investors of all sizes will see a significant return on their investment. Integrating farming into the urban environment makes a huge amount of sense and we’re delighted that we’re going to make it a reality.” Investment in the project starts at £10.