Photos: Underground farm secures its first retail deal

A farm growing salads in a Second World War bomb shelter under London has just signed its first retail deal with online supermarket Ocado.

The Growing Underground company will supply “microherbs” – tiny salad leaves and herbs fashionable with top chefs – from 100ft beneath Clapham High Street in Vauxhall, south London.

The company does not use soil, but grows its seeds on special agricultural matting made from carpet cut-offs and feeds the shoots with water and a standard NPK nutrient mix.

See also: Underground farm set up 100ft below streets of London

Like the London Tube, the space does not need heating and is an ambient 16C, said a spokesman.

Herbs growing in the underground bomb shelter

A worker handles matting used for growing in an underground farm

Fourteen different microherb crops will be supplied to Ocado, which claims to be the world’s largest dedicated online grocery retailer, with 580,000 active customers. 

The crops take just 15 days to grow and the company says it has capacity to produce 100t a year.

It is only using one-quarter of the space available to it in bomb shelter.

Coriander growing in an underground farm

An underground farmworker wearing gloves packs microherbs

“We are all absolutely thrilled to have secured this deal with Ocado. We’ve been working for years to perfect what we do,” said Growing Underground co-founder Steven Dring.

“We’re so pleased that Ocado have put their faith in a small start-up that is working hard to promote innovation and sustainability in British farming, and are very encouraged by what this could mean for the future of the industry.”  

A set of stairs leading down to the underground farm

Two men talk in the converted bomb shelter which now serves as a growing space

Crops that Growing Underground produces, include shoots of English mustard, broccoli, peas, rocket, garlic chives, fennel, coriander shoots, purple radish, wasabi mustard and pink stem radish.