London has a long tradition of growing crops indoors – skunk, a potent form of cannabis, has been grown hydroponically as a cash crop by shady entrepreneurs for years. In Tokyo they grow legal crops – such as rice – indoors in office blocks, albeit as a publicity stunt. But entrepreneurs Steven Dring and Richard Ballard are now planning to do things on a far grander scale in disused tunnels below Clapham North tube station, originally built as World War II bomb shelters.
The total area comes to around 2.5 acres – comparable to a mid-sized market garden, or very large allotment. Their budding below-stairs farm is called Zero Carbon Food, and rather than the mushrooms you might expect, they’re planning to grow herbs and other speciality greens for London restaurants.
The advantages are obvious: low transport costs and fast access to markets, and a very controlled, pest-free environment for the plants. The disadvantage is that triple-deck tiers of plant shelves have to be specially made, and the lighting costs will be considerable. The pair are currently seeking crowdfunding and hope to be in up and running by this summer. Guy Dimond
Find out more at zerocarbonfood.co.uk