There is no question that London property is some of the most expensive out there.
So where do you go if you’re a British entrepreneur looking to grow your latest venture? To an unlikely place.
It’s another gray morning in South London, and as commuters make their way to work something deep below ground is growing.
Little do they know that 33 meters below their feet, in a World War II bunker, a unique horticultural endeavor is under way.
Here in the dark, damp, rusty tunnels of London — with the constant temperature of 16 degrees — an innovative farming experiment is raising eyebrows.
“Having a stable environment, we can create a perfect environment for the plants,” said Founder Richard Ballard. “And we can grow to a certain time, from seven days to 21 days. And we produce a crop and deliver directly into the market, which is just half a kilometer down the road.”
The project is being backed by Michelin-starred Chef Michel Roux, Jr. He says this is modern farming in Britain: underground and no need for a trowl.
“These are pea shoots, but they are fully matured,” said Roux. “You bite into them, and they have a pea taste, if you want to have a taste. And they look great.”
And where does the water come from?
“The water, at the moment, is just filtered water that we’re using, but we’re hoping that we should be able to collect rainwater and filter that in various other things that will help us to be as organic as we can and good for the environment,” said Roux.
For the time being, they have one tunnel with 2 ½ acres of space.
They’re growing garlic shives, pea shoots, Thai basil — among other products. And there’s still potential to expand.
With London’s above-ground property prices through the roof, this underground business has growth potential
“Conceptually, yes, it’s a clever idea to grow in this environment, and it’s not affected by weather. But commercially, it’s a lot cheaper to grow in this environment than building a farm outside of London,” said Founder Steven Dring. “It’s about eight times cheaper when you look at the cost in terms of the multiples of rent that you would have to pay for that kind of space.”
They’re hoping this unique venture will whet the appetites of investors. They need to raise roughly $1.63 million dollars in 60 days in a crowdfunding campaign to get the food on plates by late summer.