The "world’s first underground urban farm" is set to start selling herbs and salads grown 33 m (108 ft) below the streets of London. Growing Underground is based in disused World War II tunnels. At less than two miles from the city-center, it promises farm-to-fork produce in less than four hours.

Growing Underground is the brainchild of West Country entrepreneurs Richard Ballard and Steven Dring and has been developed in partnership with Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr. It was conceived as a means of producing local and environmentally-friendly high-quality produce, with the disused tunnels providing the ideal location.

The tunnels are located below London's Northern Line underground rail link in the Clapham area of the city and were previously used as a bomb shelter for residents. The site currently being used was able to accommodate 8,000 people when needed. Now it provides a steady and controllable environment for Ballard and Dring to grow their crops.

The location allows for all year round urban farming, as it's unaffected by weather and seasonal changes. It is a pesticide-free environment and the hydroponics system employed is said to use 70 percent less water than traditional open-field farming. Likewise, the lighting and irrigation systems mean the crops can be grown with very little energy. What energy is used is sourced only from green suppliers.

Ultimately, Ballard and Dring's aim is to deliver fresh produce with zero effect on the environment. The first phase of the farm is coming to the final stages of preparation for commercial supply and the crops being produced include pea shoots, several varieties of radish, mustard, coriander, red amaranth, celery, parsley and rocket.

Delivery of the first supplies to a Covent Garden wholesaler are expected within weeks and there are plans for a direct-to-consumer offer to follow. In addition, a neighboring set of tunnels provides an opportunity for expansion further down the line.

Source: Growing Underground