The world’s first subterranean urban farm
Our first farm is 33 metres beneath the streets of Clapham, London, in disused WWII air raid shelters. Here, we grow a range of microgreens and baby leaf that we sell to many of the UK’s major retailers, including M&S, Waitrose, Tesco and Whole Foods Market. We also supply cafes and restaurants across London via our foodservice distribution partners at New Covent Garden Market, less than a mile down the road.
History of the site
While our farm has occupied the tunnels since 2015, the history of our site dates back 80 years. In their embryonic state, the tunnels were designed as short term air raid shelters with the long-term view of being transformed into an express North South crossrail. That never happened, instead the tunnels went from being air raid shelters to being lived in before being used as a storage facility and finally becoming home to our farm.
Construction begins on a system of eight deep level tunnels across London that could be used as air raid shelters. The plan was to join them up post-war to make an express Northern Line.
Air Raid Shelters
Initially some London Underground stations were used as ready-made air raid shelters. However, the tunnels were not deep enough and direct hits by German bombs resulted in significant loss of life. The new deep level shelters were far more effective and were built to hold around 100,000 people.
The Clapham South shelter was used to house 200 of the first immigrants from the West Indies who had arrived on the MV Empire Windrush for four weeks until they found more permanent accommodation.
Richard Ballard and Steven Dring co-found Zero Carbon Food.
Initial Test Area Built
A small test area is set up at one end of the tunnels to test the viability of a subterranean farm.
Farm Fully Operational
The farm moves into full production and supplies a number of national retailers, as well as hundreds of hotels and restaurants across London via food service distributors.
It’s great to be involved in this exciting project, for which we have ambitious growth plans. Above all it’s fantastic to source produce so fresh in the heart of Britain’s largest city.