The next food revolution: underground urban farming?

As apocalyptic as it sounds, a very successful underground farming initiative has seen the light of day (mind the pun) 33m under the busy streets of Clapham in London.

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Here a group of foodies and environmentalists joined forces to install the latest hydroponic systems and LED technology in an old World War II bomb shelter. The result? Up to 20 000kg of luscious greens a year.

The benefits of hydroponics are widely understood. These systems can use up to 70% less water than open field farming and are not vulnerable to adverse weather conditions. But this urban farming initiative by Zero Carbon Food also lowers its carbon footprint by growing the crops ‘closer to home’ and being able to deliver the goods to tables within hours of harvesting.

Bloomberg business reports that the growers stacked the shelter with layers of hydroponic beds –forming ‘vertical farms’ – and used a growing system comprising energy-efficient LEDs instead of the sun. The system also uses no pesticides and less energy than a conventional greenhouse.

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The crops grown in the bomb shelter have been carefully chosen and are mostly fragile and leafy greens with short growth cycles.
Although South Africa doesn’t yet have serious space constraints, this farming method holds a lot of potential.

Aspiring farmers lacking land can optimise the limited space at their disposal through stacking, and accelerate their harvests thanks to 24/7 LED lighting. Add our abundance of sunshine to the mix, and they won’t even have to pay to power their artificial lighting thanks to solar energy.

Definitely something to look into!