Going Underground With Zero Carbon Foods

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - New maps show that the Earth is rapidly running out of fertile land, and that food production will soon be unable to keep up with the world's burgeoning population. London is one city where the population is growing fast and space is running out. So, how would you produce vast amounts of food to feed London? How would you do it without any environmental impact? Well, two entrepreneurs, Richard Ballard and Steven Dring, have teamed up with Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr to create a carbon neutral working farm, Zero Carbon Food. Here’s the thing: it will be located in an extensive tunnel network beneath London’s underground transport system; those tunnels sit beneath the Northern Line.

As the trains rumble overhead, Zero Carbon Food, a commercial venture will be benefitting Londoners, businesses, society and the environment as a whole. It will utilise underground redundant spaces to produce leafy greens, herbs, shoots, miniature vegetables, edible flowers and other delicacies. These would be grown using LED lights and a hydroponics system, with all produce for sale. Produce will be sold to restaurants, supermarkets and wholesalers as well as the nearby New Covent Garden market.

Unsurprisingly, London’s food sector is worth a massive £17bn ($28bn), with small and medium food businesses providing the majority of the industry's 300,000 jobs. The capital has also seen a resurgence of interest in smaller, local food producers and retailers working with a strong community ethos. Zero Carbon Food is immediately a pioneer here in this market.  It will offer an immediate benefit for Londoners: reduced food waste through increased shelf-life, bringing employment to inner cities and helping to achieve the reduction in the carbon footprint of the capital. Agriculture contributes to a third of the total carbon emissions; increasing conventional cultivation methods pose a rising threat to the environment as the world tries to feed an additional 2 billion people by 2050.

The wider benefits of this enterprise is that it uses 70 per cent less water versus traditional open-field farming methods—all year round production as opposed to seasonal crops—and therefore off sets the need to import produce. It also drastically reduces food miles for retailers and consumers. Another big winner is that the crops are free from pesticides.

These underground tunnels were originally used to house people sheltering from air raids in World War II. Now, they are being put to more positive use. A crowd-funding campaign has started for Zero Carbon Food, giving investors of all sizes the chance to buy a stake in the project from as little as £10. First deliveries of produce to customers are expected to begin in the late summer.

Photo Credit: Zero Carbon Foods

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