The most surprising news to come out of the London Underground of late isn't about the Tube strike — it's about vegetables. Two British entrepreneurs, Richard Ballard and Steven Drung, have built a functioning garden under Clapham North tube station in central London. The hectare-sized plot is in a disused Second World War air raid shelter leased from the Underground. They've just started their planting, and are planning on growing herbs and greens that they can sell to London restaurants. The pitch: their greens can be in restaurant kitchens within four hours of being picked.
Ballard and Drung's company, called Growing Undergrownd, uses hydroponic systems and low-energy LED lights to grow its produce. Nutrient-enriched water passes through the planting beds once a day and is slowly drained, without using any soil. It looks like some kind of elaborate science lab, but Ballard and Drung say it's an environmentally friendly process — they don't use pesticides, and claim to use 70 per cent less water than open field agriculture. And because the crops are underground, they can be grown and delivered year round, no matter the weather.
It's too early in the process to know just how this experiment will pan out. For one thing, they're still looking for crowdsource investors to get the project up to scale (it's still in the test phase right now). For another, it's not clear yet how their produce will taste, or whether restaurants and consumers will embrace the concept. But it's still a kind of cool pro-veggie idea.
For a closer look, you can watch their pitch video above.