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Underground farm harvesting food for London restaurant trade

A farm based in central London’s old World War II tunnels is now harvesting 20 individual herbs from its site 100ft underground.

Olivia   Midgley

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Olivia   Midgley
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 Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr (centre) with Richard Ballard and Steven Dring
Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr (centre) with Richard Ballard and Steven Dring

Growing Underground, London’s first subterranean farm, uses a sophisticated lighting and irrigation system to grow a range of crops including green basil, red mustard, coriander, garlic chives, wasabi mustard, purple radish, red basil, salad rocket and pink stem radish.

 

The £1 million, 1 hectare project which received £600,000 from crowdfunding, is the brainchild of West Country entrepreneurs Richard Ballard and Steven Dring, in partnership with Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr.

 

After months of product development and fine-tuning of the infrastructure, the produce is being harvested daily and supplied to markets and wholesalers.

 

Doorstep deliveries to homes in London are also available via Farmdrop.co.uk.

 

Mr Dring said: “We have been working in our food mine for more than two years and we’re thrilled to be bringing our first commercial scale harvest to the surface as Spring arrives.

 

“We think Londoners will agree, when they taste our produce, that it has been worth the wait.”

 

The farm, 100 feet below Clapham Common in tunnels which were originally used for sheltering Londoners during the war, features state of the art lighting, hydroponics and ventilation. The herbs are cultivated on special growing platforms.

 

Constant temperatures and the absence of pests contribute to the quality of the produce, which has already received positive reviews from critics.

 

Michel Roux Jr, Michelin-starred chef and a co-director of Growing Underground, said: “I’m delighted that Richard Ballard and Steven Dring have reached this important landmark in the development of the farm, which coincidentally is almost directly below my home.

 

“I’ve enjoyed working with the team on the development of the offering and I am confident that these amazing herbs will be extremely popular with Londoners.

 

“They’ll certainly be a fixture on the menu at Le Gavroche and I am developing a recipe with Growing Underground herbs at its centre.”

 


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