Jan Kraus
07 March 2020photowalk3 min read

Growing plants underground in London

A photo of English Salad Mix by Growing Underground, London

Who would have thought about the idea of growing plans deep underground? Well, maybe in some post-apocalyptic movie, but in real life, that doesn’t seem straightforward, right?

I was surprised too when I stumbled upon the company called Growing Underground. They produce fresh greens and salad leaves right in the middle of London, using hydroponics and artificial light systems.

Closeup photo of green sprouts at Growing Underground, London, UK
Closeup photo of green sprouts at Growing Underground, London, UK

I was even more delighted to find out that they offer a farm tour with the founders, where you can actually visit their site, learn a bit about the history of the place, and the technology behind.

Of course, we had to see it. We’ve booked tickets and visited the underground farm.

33 metres below Clapham

The site is located in Clapham, London, deep below the street level. They describe themselves on the website:

At Growing Underground, we sustainably grow mouth-wateringly fresh micro greens and salad leaves 33 metres below the busy streets of Clapham. Using the latest hydroponic systems and LED technology, our crops are grown year-round in the perfect, pesticide-free environment that these forgotten tunnels provide.

Thanks to a controlled environment, each tiny leaf tastes as amazing as the last. Our greens are unaffected by the weather and seasonal changes, and thanks to our prime location, we reduce the need to import crops and drastically reduce the food miles for retailers and consumers.

Our visit started with a short historical introduction. We’ve learned about the original idea of the founders and the story of how they adapted and transformed an old World War 2 air raid shelter into modern underground farm and packaging production site.

Walking through packaging facility at Growing Underground, London, UK
Walking through packaging facility at Growing Underground, London, UK

Then, following down a long stairwell and comprehensive cleaning and procedure (they produce food on-site!), we could finally enter the farm.

The tours are limited to small groups of people, and as we’ve visited the different areas, our host was explaining the processes and answering our questions.

Underground farming

Obviously, the most exciting part was the visit to the growing area, where we spent most of our time.

Big fans keep the air flowing at this bomb shelter converted into an underground hydroponic farm at Growing Underground, London, UK
Big fans keep the air flowing at this bomb shelter converted into an underground hydroponic farm at Growing Underground, London, UK

We were allowed to see only a smaller fragment of the long tunnel where the produce is grown. While the farm is fully operational and already produces the greens, we’ve learned that the company is planning to expand into further areas of the shelter, allowing them to ramp-up the production and improve the profitability of the business.

The space of the bomb shelter allows the company to grow the greens in a controlled environment: resistant to temperature changes, bugs, and diseases. LED lighting is adjusted for optimal growth and energy consumption.

A view through the tunnel where the plants are grown under artificial lighting and hydroponic systems at Growing Underground, London, UK
A view through the tunnel where the plants are grown under artificial lighting and hydroponic systems at Growing Underground, London, UK

Tasting it

At the moment, the products from Growing Underground can be bought from retailers like Waitrose, Whole Foods Market, Planet Organic, or Farmdrop.

They are unfortunately still packaged in plastic boxes, but at the moment, this is the only viable option, and the company is working to reduce the cost and footprint of the packaging.

Tasting extra fresh and a bit spicy Mustard sprouts at Growing Underground, London, UK
Tasting extra fresh and a bit spicy Mustard sprouts at Growing Underground, London, UK

Of course, being at the spot, we could try some of the greens almost as fresh as they could be, and they tasted great!

That was the final part of our tour. We’ve really enjoyed it! Below you can see a few more photos from the visit.

Another view through the tunnel of the old WW2 bomb shelter used by Growing Underground, London, UK
Another view through the tunnel of the old WW2 bomb shelter used by Growing Underground, London, UK

A closeup of various lettues grown underground at Growing Underground, London
A closeup of various lettues grown underground at Growing Underground, London

Greens sprouting on recycled mats at Growing Underground, London
Greens sprouting on recycled mats at Growing Underground, London

If you’re curious and want to learn more in learning more about the company and its products, you can check their website at http://growing-underground.com/.

Entry published on 07 March 2020 in photowalk, photography, UK, London, Clapham, plants.
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