Underneath the streets of Liverpool's Baltic Triangle, green-fingered innovators have created a remarkable subterranean oasis, aimed at providing sustainable, healthy food for the local community.
Using hydroponics, and taking over a cavernous Victorian tunnel, Liverpool-based social enterprise Farm Urban have created a space for growing leafy greens and herbs whatever the weather.
The farm, in the basement of the Liverpool Life Sciences UTC school on Parliament Street in Liverpool 8 , has been several years in the making.
Now Farm Urban, founded by Paul Myers and Jens Thomas, has started Greens For Good, a project aimed at "growing greens for taste, not transport" and has launched a new Kickstarter campaign to help the project bloom.
How the farm works
The farm has 240 vertical towers of greens grown hydroponically under controlled conditions in the basement of the Liverpool Life Sciences UTC school.
Local businesses can receive boxes of freshly grown perishable leafy greens, delivered by bicycle, and can also order a produce pod or even an edible wall.
Businesses can buy like for like, meaning a school or community centre will also benefit from whatever option the business chooses.
Farm Urban operations director Jayne Goss explained: "It's a really exciting project, and we work a lot with students at UTC Life Sciences, who have helped us to try different ways of doing aquaponics and hydroponics."
"Although there are challenges to growing underground and light is one of the biggest, there are lots of benefits to growing in a controlled space - we can manage temperature, airflow and nutrients.
"It's actually a very efficient way of growing and you are not subject to the whims of nature."
Jayne said: "Growing in the urban environment close to where we deliver means that we are growing for taste rather than transport.
"We grow leafy greens and herbs and focus on growing things that perish quickly, and would normally be transported full of gases to try to keep them fresh.
"We have had a great response and people are really surprised that it doesn't taste like the stuff you get in bags and there is actually a great variety in terms of the different kinds of leaves out there."
Because the leaves are grown and delivered hyper-locally they are fresh and don't require packaging with gasses (Image: Farm Urban)
Jayne, who has a background in education, came on board to help managing directors Paul Myers and Jens Thomas with developing their educational outreach programme.
Jayne said: "We work a lot with schools across Liverpool. In L8, we have worked with Smithdown Primary and Windsor Primary School with virtual growing projects.
"It's very hands on. The students will look at the plants growing and adjust light and humidity. We've been exploring what it's like for children to engage digitally.
"We're hoping to move forward with that and work with the children with some of the programmes we've developed, as well as doing some work with after-school clubs, cooking with some of our ingredients."
The Farm Urban team also work closely with other organisations in the area, and has installed aquaponics systems, which use fish to help create the nutrients that plants need, at Alder Hey Hospital, University of Liverpool and Ness Gardens in recent years, although Jayne says "there is still a lot of work to do to make aquaponics commercially viable."
Source: Liverpool Echo