Hydroponics used to grow salad in tunnels under London
A second world war bomb shelter has been converted to grow eco-friendly salad approved by celebrity chef Michel Roux Jnr
By Tim Smedley
30 January 2014
A few hundred metres from Clapham North tube station stands a padlocked gate. Behind the gate is a dark, damp entrance to a spiral staircase leading 33 metres underground. A series of tunnels built as a second world war bomb shelter large enough to fit 8,000 people have remained virtually unused. Until now. At the end of one tunnel comes a pinkish-purple glow from behind white plastic sheeting. The Breaking Bad comparison is obvious. But the produce being grown using hydroponics and LED lights isn’t illegal. It’s salad. Salad, the taste of which is liked by no less than chef Michel Roux Jnr.
Everyone who comes down into the tunnel is initially very sceptical, laughs Steven Dring, who along with his friend and business partner Richard Ballard is the man behind Zero Carbon Food. “But then they say, ‘OK, let’s make this work.’”
The project has been in development for the past two years, and has attracted the interest of the mayor of London, naming Dring one of this year’s ‘London Leaders’. It is, as of today, looking for finance via the crowdfunding website Crowdcube. Only using a small part of one tunnel so far, the space they have leased from Transport for London (TfL) gives them a potential for 2.5 hectares of growing space. The produce including pea shoots, rocket, red lion mustard, radish, tatsoi, pak choi and miniature broccoli will be branded as Growing Underground and aimed at the retail market and high end restaurants.