Invisible Urban Growing Underground

Rozie Apps
Wednesday, 7th October 2015

The first subterranean farm has opened 30 feet below ground, growing micro-greens using hydroponics. Could this be one solution for urban farming? Plus information to help you build your own system.

The world's first subterranean farm has opened in London, using hydroponics to grow micro-greens.

With agricultural land becoming ever more degraded,1 hydroponics is one solution that many people are looking towards. For those that don't know, hydroponics is a method of growing without soil, instead growing in water, with nutrient solutions. Although there are arguements for and against hydroponics,2 its use of minimal space and low energy makes it a potential solution for urban growing.

The farm is based in a 33 metre space under the streets of Clapham, in a disused World War II bomb shelter, originally built to hold 8,000 London residents.

Set up by Richard Ballard and Steve Dring, 'Growing Underground' grows a range of micro-greens. They are currently growing pea shoots, radishes, mustard, coriander, red amaranth, parsley, celery and rocket, all of which are supplied to London restaurants, including that of Michel Roux Jr. The aim is to supply local food markets and therefore London residents in the coming future. When it is fully operational, they estimate a production of 11,000-40,000 pounds a year.

Hydroponic systems require much less space than traditional growing as they can be stacked. As 'Growing Underground' shows, food can be grown in disused buildings and areas that traditional growing would be difficult. Hydroponic systems also require much less energy input. Cities usually rely on importing food, so urban growing spaces are a positive step towards cities becoming more resilient.

©Growing Underground's micro-greens grown with hydroponics

The 30 feet below ground bunker is lined with high-tech equipment, including LED lighting, ventilation and irrigation systems. Richard and Steve aim to grow fresh and local salads with zero effect on the environment by using no pesticides and low energy use.

“The whole system runs automatically, with an environmental computer controlling the lighting, temperature, nutrients and air flow,” Steven Dring told Bloomberg.3

©Growing Undergound's founders Richard Ballard and Steve Dring with Michel Roux JR

©Wired UK

The pair set up Growing Underground by raising funds through Crowdcube. They have several backers including Michel Roux Jr, as an non-executive director. “I’m looking forward to creating my first dish using produce from the world’s first underground urban farm, less than two miles as the crow flies from the heart of London. It is great to be involved in this ambitious project, for which we have equally ambitious growth plans. Above all, it is fantastic to be able to source produce that is so fresh in the heart of Britain’s largest city.”4

Take a virtual tour of Growing Underground's farm and find out the inspiration behind the project. Thanks to Wired UK.

Build Your Own

The following film is a guide to building your own system.


Further resources

For more information on Growing Underground visit:

Watch: Greenhouse aquaponics: DIY system to farm fish and vegetables

Why not buy Ecological Aquaculture - a sustainable solution from our Green Shopping site for a reduced price of £20.79!


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Ross Thatcher |
Thu, 08/10/2015 - 11:26
The cost of nutrients can be neutralized by using fish-food to grow fish, otherwise known as aquaponics. Moisture can be recaptured with dehumidification. Far more organic plus you get fish.