Michelin-starred chef backs Lambeth’s underground farm

By Chelsea Moore

An underground farm has taken root 100 feet below Lambeth in a series of disused tunnels, with some powerful backing in the form of Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr.

Zero Carbon Food, brainchild of West Country entrepreneurs, Richard Ballard and Steven Dring, is headquartered in a World War II bomb shelter near Clapham North Tube Station.

The farm is carbon neutral thanks to special low energy LED bulbs and integrated hydroponics, a method of growing plants using mineral nutrients in place of soil.

“We are hoping that this unique concept will be the beginning of an urban produce revolution. It is a way that will help to keep produce truly local and one that is better for the environment,” says Michel Roux Jr, head chef and owner of Le Gavroche.

The project has been in development for the past two years and has attracted the interest of the Greater London Authority, Boris Johnson and ‘food czar’ of London, Rosie Boycott.

The farm’s produce, appropriately named Growing Underground, is made up of pea shoots, rocket, micro cress, micro herbs, mustard leaf, thai basil and pak choi.

“We still see it as the start of a journey and there’s a hell of a long way to go. We’re excited about getting to this stage,” says businessman, Steven Dring.

“I can’t see it coming to an end. I can only see it getting bigger.”

Growing Underground is expected to reach wholesalers and local restaurants this summer before a roll-out to supermarkets. 

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