This Old WWII Bomb Shelter Has Been Turned Into a Giant Underground Farm

An area that once kept Londoners safe is now keeping them well fed.

Zero Carbon Food Underground Farm

People walking the busy streets of London's southwest Chapham district probably have no idea there's a whole micro-green world thriving 100 feet below them. Once a bomb shelter that kept up to 8,000 people out of harm's way during World War II, the giant space is now the world's largest underground hydroponic (a growing method that uses water or other base instead of soil) garden.

Most of us probably wouldn't find the long tunnels of an abandoned bomb shelter all that inspiring, but for entrepreneurs and childhood friends Richard Ballard and Steven Dring, seeing the underground space was their light-bulb moment. Because, naturally, what else would you think to do with a large, sunless, concrete cavern other than start a garden?

Take a look inside the brilliant underground-bomb-shelter-turned-super-sustainable-farm below.

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The bomb shelter went forgotten for about 70 years before Ballard and Dring brought it back to life — literally.

The farm, also known as Growing Underground, is an environmentalist's dream: The pesticide-free farm features a state-of-the-art system that controls temperature, nutrients and lighting (energy-efficient LEDs, of course), that reduces water usage by a whopping 70 percent compared to traditional field farms.

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The bomb shelter tunnels are filled with stacked layers of hydroponic beds that grow all sorts of tasty greens, including watercress, basil, pea shoots, coriander, mustard leaf and rocket.

Ballard and Dring founded their company, Zero Carbon Food, with a vision to feed London without relying on fossil fuels. Now, with the help of two-Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux, their company is doing just that, distributing their subterranean-grown greens to local restaurants, caterers and retailers.

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The obvious-but-still-delicious cherry on top of all this? The farm can grow fresh greens year-round.

When Growing Underground is fully operational, Ballard and Dring estimate they'll be able to produce between 11,000 and 44,000 pounds of greens each year.

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All the Growing Underground plants are picked, packed by hand and delivered to restaurants and markets in under four hours. Talk about farm to table!

In keeping with the sustainable sensibility of the entire project, Growing Underground produce stays local; a 25-mile radius, to be exact. So most of us, unfortunately, won't get to dig into a bowl full of their beautiful red amaranth or pea shoots anytime soon. We can only hope this ingenious abandoned-space upcycling venture paves the way for an underground agricultural revolution all around the globe.

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