A Converted Underground Air-Raid Shelter Now Feeding London Residents


There’s a new urban farm on the scene in London and this one is definitely a far cry from your typical urban farm. This farm, which specializes in micro-greens is in an old Air-Raid shelter from WWII. The shelter was originally designed to protect up to 8,000 people from German raids during WWII. No longer needed for that purpose and going years without use it has now been converted to anothe public benefit, an urban farm that is helping to meet London’s food needs.

Employee, Daiva inspects the crops at a London ungergroun farm in an abandoned WWII air-raid facility. Photo Cred: AP
Employee, Daiva inspects the crops at a London ungergroun farm in an abandoned WWII air-raid facility. Photo Cred: AP

While plans for the shelter and its tunnels were to one day conncet to the London Underground after years of neglect it was clear that plan was not going to come to fruition. The shelter lay abandoned for 70 years until two entrepreneurs, Steven Dring and Richard Ballard, decided to grow broccoli, coriander, fennel and a host of other vegetables as so-called micro-greens, grown from seedlings but harvested early when the first leaves form.

The tunnels have no natural light and are illuminated with pink LEDs, giving them a futuristic look. The intensity of the light changes to imitate daylight, but with one major difference – the lights are dimmed during the day and shine brightest at night, as electricity is cheapest then.

Dring and Ballard latched onto the concept of vertical farming – producing food in vertically stacked layers – which was developed by US biologist Dickson Despommier in his 2010 book “The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century”. The operation takes up some 200 metres of the 1,000 metres available in the air-raid shelter tunnel, half for growing while the other half is used for packaging.

The facility has its own challenges but one it doesnot face is the challenge of the ever changing and unpredictable London climate. Rain or shine, cold or hot the facility has the exact same conditions every day of the year allowing it to provide for clients and customers 365 days a year with no disruption in production.

To read more about this fascinating urban agriculture project check out the orignal story here.


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