Is This Underground Garden The Future of Farming?

Underneath the Northern Line tube track in south London is a new underground urban garden that’s set to upend how we see farming.


Whichever way you look at it, it’s dire straits for conventional farming. Scientists reckon that we’ve only got 60 years left of topsoil, which is the mainstay of growing, and a lot of it is already pretty much unusable. Climate change makes it difficult to predict growing conditions of the future and there’s the ever-looming threat of water-shortages and the rise of massive global urbanisation. Oh, and there’s a rapidly expanding population. In short, we need to have a long, hard think about how we grow and feed the planet.

Enter Steven Dring and his business partner Richard Ballard, who have taken baby steps towards working out how to do this with a radical farm called Growing Underground. Located 179 steps underneath the street in Clapham, London, approximately four storeys deeper than the Northern Line Tube track, is a small seed of hope in the race to develop sustainable urban farming.

Big environmental questions are at the heart of the operation. The underground tunnels, maintained at a constant temperature of 16 degrees Celsius, with fans going to help the plants grow strong, allow year-round growing. Plus the hydroponic technique used doesn’t involve soil at all, and relies on matting and waterpumps to supply the seeds with the nutrients and moisture they need. LED lights play the role of the subterranean sun.