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GDR Creative Intelligence article

Here’s our farm featured in the quarterly Global Innovation Report of GDR Creative Intelligence who specialise in global retail trend forecasting 🙂 (erm yes that’s us above the ‘world changing condoms’!)

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s our new outdoor sign!!

Earlier today our new outdoor sign was fitted on to the building (yes this is exciting for us!) And hopefully this will clarify why we’re here to the locals as opposed to; ‘those dodgy looking guys who keep hanging around that old building’! 😉

Vegetarian Living Magazine

Great to have an article on our urban farm featured in this month’s issue of Vegetarian Living Magazine, which focuses on it’s sustainability and role in the future if our planet 🙂

It’s electrifying! It’s Pete Muller!

Earlier this week we had the privilege of having super talented photographer Pete Muller down on the farm.  The result was these awesome electrifying shots giving the tunnel a touch of the supernatural! via@petemuller99

Monocle urban farm film

Life continues to be busy down on the farm and we’ve all settled into the new office. We’re also delighted this week to have our underground farm ‘representing’ London in this short film by Monocle on urban farms from around the world! 🙂

New Farm Manager – You say ‘tom-ay-to’, I say ‘tom-ah-to’

New Farm Manager

You may have seen this guy’s face popping up lately on our Facebook, Twitter and blog pages. No he is not our love child, he is in fact our new Farm Manager – Gabriel de Franco! (a.k.a Gabe)

Gabe hails from Nicaragua complete with smooth accent (hence the title of this blog). This chap comes with a wealth of agricultural knowledge and expertise. With a MA in Horticulture & Industrial Engineering, he also brings experience from his own hydroponics business in Nicaragua combined with a previous role as an operations manager in the largest glasshouse in the UK. He understands growing not just from a scientific point of view but from a practical perspective as well.

Tomatoes!

Gabe has worked in Evesham in the West Midlands specialising in growing tomatoes and became quite the expert in the NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) style of growing. He still gets excited about growing tomatoes now, to the point where we think he may once have had an affair with one.

Dream job

As enthusiastic and passionate about sustainable farming as we are, Gabe shares our ethos and conscience for business. However, although he describes this as a ‘Dream Job’ he is aware that entering an early stage business is not a piece of cake and that the challenges change daily. He has already advised us on tweaking the test area to make the farm work more efficiently which we have put into action and are already seeing improved results – all whilst helping out with a paint brush and an electric drill.

We’re really excited to have Gabe as part of the team and would like to formally welcome him to Growing Underground!

Stormy stormy night…

Admit it, you were scared last night. That was one pretty hefty thunder and lightning storm! Check out this amazing shot over London via @justinstokes_ (slightly different pic from yesterday’s blue sky one!)

Here comes the sun!

We have to say it’s looking pretty damn gorgeous above ground today!
(although of course growing hydroponically under specialised LED lights allows for sustainable, optimum and constant growing conditions 😉 #geek)

The science bit

These pics may look like an attempt at a ‘sexy’ Farm Calendar but they are actually our farm during its current crop test phases. Our farm is now under lab conditions as we focus on the ‘science bit’ stage of testing and recording different micro greens and lettuce in variant conditions including substrates, densities and the set up of our crop benches.

The aim is to obtain the optimum growing conditions for each individual crop and with the help of our new farm manager’s expertise, we are finding even just subtle tweaking here and there is sometimes enough to affect or increase a yield dramatically which is exciting to see!

Cities Summit – London Leader farm tour

You may or not know that last year Steve applied for and was delighted to be selected as a GLA London Leader. Last month he led a tour of our farm for international delegates of the Cities Summit. The tour explored a selection of green entrepreneurs and innovators taking part in the London Sustainable Development Commission’s London Leaders programme (yes a bit of a mouthful!)

Also included on the tour was the nearby Brixton estate which uses solar panel roofs and the rather beautiful Edible Bus Stop followed by the Cities Summit at hosted by Mayor Boris Johnson at City Hall (pics via @Citymart)

New office! New office!

…So our new on-site office has arrived!! These past few weeks, in preparing the site for expansion there’s been hard graft, heavy lifting and metal splinters getting stuck in our beards or gently cascading off our bald heads. However in the process we have had such a positive response from the locals passing by which has been really lovely.

The office is all wired up now thanks to Darryl from Bert Electrics. We have all bagsied our work spaces, been putting up reclaimed IKEA furniture (aka reclaimed from our flats!), are taking turns in the kitchenette and even made the girlfriend cry when she saw photos of the new office! (yeah we’re not sure about her!)

We are thrilled though as it’s a bit of a milestone for us, it’s been two years of building the farm, creating ‘Growing Underground’ and working from office space in Brixton or from home until now. It’s great to see the business moving forward and to now have the ground work being done at, well, ground level which is making working on the farm so much more efficient and productive …but this is just the beginning! 🙂

WC opening night

Last night we were at another underground location in Clapham; the opening night of the pretty cool WC – Wine & Charcuterie which used to be an actual underground toilet! They’ve managed to get the atmosphere spot on by keeping the look of the 100yr old Victorian Water closet in the decor (without the smell of course!) and with some delicious food and wine! Very unique place, highly recommended!

Greedy Salad

No limp, lonely lettuce here – try our greedy salad! Baby spinach tossed with grilled bacon, chopped apple, cucumber, feta, beetroot, spring onions and toasted pine nuts in a balsamic, olive oil and lime dressing served with lots of black pepper – and a large free range scotch egg… yum!!

Caution: Farmers at Work!

Lots have happened in the last couple of weeks including the fact that we have a new farm manager, Gabe, on board who has proved to be a very welcome member of the team! We continue to tend to the farm, however as promised, we have all been getting down and dirty, preparing the site for expansion which given the scale and location, both above and below ground, is more than a bit of a task. As well as ‘farm manager’ duties, we’re quite sure Gabe is thrilled to have joined us at this pivotal point which allows him to add painter, decorator and general muscle man to his CV 😉

The site generally hasn’t had much TLC since WW2 so it’s all proving very challenging but we’re enjoying the team work, banter and seeing it all come together. Here we are sweating, carrying wood and handling ‘man tools’ as we (along with Gabe and intern Jordan) rub sun lotion over ourselves. All in the name of undertaking the ‘above ground’ work of preparing the yard and laying the foundations for what will be the farm office at surface level…

Shiny new blog!

Hello all! Firstly apologies for the delay in blog updates lately – as a result this one will be slightly extended (so further apologies for that!) So what have you been doing we hear you ask? You may already be aware if you have been following us on Facebook and Twitter but if not, well, life has continued to be pretty hectic since the launch of Growing Underground back in January. More press and publicity than we could ever have imagined has ensued thanks to our PR guys 1238, our Crowdcube fundraising campaign kicked off and we went viral. With the help of our intern, Jordan, we kept the farm looking good and have had as much interest internationally as from the UK – six months later it continues still!

Our beardy and baldy selves have managed to speak coherently in interviews but not quite to the same slick level as ‘One Take’ Michel Roux Jr! Highlights have included being on various news channels such as BBC, ITV, ABC (US), ABC (Australia), CBS, NPR and ARD to name but a few. Press coverage consisted of all the main UK newspapers; The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times, The Mail, The Metro, Time Out, This is Money etc. to our old local The Bristol Post and as far and wide as The Times of Mumbai! We also had an MSN feature on us, were listed on Yahoo’s ‘Top Secret Spots’, The Telegraph’s ‘Most Watched this Week’ and got to no.1 on Viralnova’s most ‘Totally Brilliant’ use of a Rundown Building!

The following months brought a successful investor Meet and Greet event and we were thrilled to be told that our pitch had received the most views in the history of Crowdcube! Then after being invited to do a talk at Shoreditch House for further potential investors, April showered us with being chosen by National Geographic as part of a special series ‘The Future of Food’ and we got a mention on Newsnight. May brought us an invite to The Restaurant Leaders Summit in Cannes, presenting to future customers as one of the first food suppliers ever at the annual event! Of course this was an absolute honour but also a tad scary – luckily we delivered a successful presentation with great feedback (and all without stuttering, total mind blank or soiling ourselves! :))

There are many other interviews we could mention such as one that involved a photo shoot of lettuce being repeatedly thrown in our faces?! We’re assuming this was some kind of artistic angle and that we are not featured on a DVD labeled ‘Lettuce Fetish’ in a Soho basement somewhere!

Alongside all of this of course we continued to work on the farm and were booked up meeting investors so it’s been pretty full on! Now, even though our Crowdcube campaign has finished, our conversations with external investors continue, this ranges from HNWI, Venture Capital, Banks and Corporate Investors. We have received an offer of assistance to aide the growth of the ‘Growing Underground’ brand from one of the largest growers in the UK and Europe.

We have also finalised an agreement with County Supplies London who will be our New Covent Garden Market distribution partner and with whom we did a stand with at this month’s London Produce Show. Supplying thousands of sites in the London area they will take the majority of produce from the first phases of our expansion which will provide much needed revenue at the early stage of our business. So things continue to be hectic but exciting as we get down to the nitty gritty of expanding the farm, it’s all hands on deck! We hope this has filled you in on with what’s going down with Growing Underground so far….there is light at the end of the tunnel…!

Temporary office Space

There was only so much cappuccino we could drink and there is only so long we could nurse a camomile tea sitting in Costa. So fellow London Leader, Dirk Bischof, of One Planet Ventures, has provided us with office space in his sustainable incubator in Brixton. We will work from here until we are able to build an on site office at the farm…hmm nervous smiles as launch day draws near?

Another ‘Decent’ shoot

Another fantastic photo shoot with Decent Design, this time some beautiful delicate shots of our micro greens. We are now ready with PR company 1238 on board, a film pitch, two websites, a business plan and crowdfunding campaign which we hope to launch very soon; as soon as the tunnel lease is signed that is!

Website shoot

Andy from Decent Design, our design strategy and branding agency, came down to London to take photos for the websites and business plan. He got some amazing shots on the day. The Decent crew have done an amazing job across the board with our branding and we very much look forward to working with them as the business develops.

Crowdcube film pitch

We have now put together our Crowdcube crowdfunding campaign, complete with a short film explaining the concept. On filming day it was an early start for everyone involved and there was an excitement in the air. Annoyingly Michel Roux Jr got his lines spot-on first time, whilst myself and Steve seemed to struggle to speak English!

The film was shot by James Moriarty who not only has a cool name but is an exceptional DOP. He had also accompanied me towards the end of the summer on several cutaway shoots for the film, both within London and further afield.

Take a look at the finished product http://growing-underground.com/#video

Producer: (myself) Richard Ballard/ DOP: James Moriarty/ Director: Adam Williams/ Editor: Theresa Logun

Film Storyboard (and Michel Roux Jr!)

The business is snowballing – in a good way! We are engaging some high profile interest, continue to work hard down on the farm and on our business plan. We are now thrilled to say that in the last few weeks we have managed to bring one of the best chefs in the country, Michel Roux Jr, on board as a non-executive director which we are really excited about! 🙂

We have also started to put together our Crowdcube crowdfunding campaign which will involve a film pitch. Here’s our storyboard for the film. Our illustrator has even got the various facial hair spot on! We aim to keep to the initial script and storyboard with maybe very slight diversification if need be on filming day.