In March 2019, a group of MSc students from the Agri-food Technology programme were given the opportunity to go on a field trip to see the world’s first underground farm as part of their studies at the University of Lincoln.

During the day trip, students also attended the Fresh Produce Consortium Careers Event and were able to chat directly with potential employers in the fresh produce industry.

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The group’s visit to the underground farm, Growing Underground, helped to enhance their understanding of applied and technical knowledge towards sustainable intensification of food production.

Set 33 metres below the streets of Clapham, the techniques used in Growing Underground’s farming operation link directly to the rapidly growing theme of industrial digitalisation and students were able to witness the various technologies behind the success of the farm.

The farm combines the use of LED lights & hydroponics; LEDs replicate the spectrum of sunlight and giant drawers of salad leaves are grown on capillary matting made from recycled carpet, eliminating the need for soil and associated tilling or pesticide use. The sensor-controlled hydroponics flood the root system with water and nutrients and recirculate water from the tanks. Sensors positioned in strategic places capture data on air velocity, temperature, pH in water and EC levels to provide plants with the optimum environment every second of every day.

In terms of the environmental impact, Growing Underground’s system uses 70% per cent less water than traditional, open-field farming. Every 6 days, there is a harvest of baby leaves, herbs and micro-herbs, which equates to approximately 60 crops a year.

Students have previously enjoyed visits to Branston, Lincolnshire and craft apple juice producers, Sandringham Apple Juice, Norfolk.