Fifty years ago, when the world's population was around half what it is now, the answer to looming famines was "the green revolution" – a massive increase in the use of hybrid seeds and chemical fertilisers. It worked, but at a great ecological price. We grow nearly twice as much food as we did just a generation ago, but we use three times as much water from rivers and underground supplies.
Food, farm and water technologists will have to find new ways to grow more crops in places that until now were hard or impossible to farm. It may need a total rethink over how we use land and water. So enter a new generation of radical farmers, novel foods and bright ideas.
If you get off the tube at Clapham Common and then step into a cage-like lift that takes you about 100ft below the bustling streets of South London, you’ll find yourself in Growing Underground, an urban farm, housed in a network of dark and dingy tunnels originally built as air-raid shelters during World War II. Unknowingly to myself, 5 minutes’ walk from my front door lies one of the UK’s most innovative urban farms.
Childhood friends and founders Steven Dring and Richard Ballard had a simple idea – find a solution to the way that we source our food.
Step into the “millennial pink” glow and be introduced to a whole new world of subterranean farming and hydroponics. Being underground, the farm’s micro greens and salad leaves are totally unaffected by seasonal changes, so it’s the perfect environment all year round. It’s also entirely free of pesticides and, given the location, food miles for retailers and consumers are drastically reduced.
Their business could be a step into changing how we eat. Their aim is to reconnect British consumers with local products while reducing food miles and waste.
The farm has been running for five years now, thanks to a crowdfunding project and early backing from chefs such as Michel Roux Jr. Nowadays, their produce is used by top chefs, and can be found in many major supermarkets, such as Waitrose and M&S.
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