At Driver Hire, we recently welcomed two new franchisees to our nationwide network, sisters Sandy and Sindy Sohal. They opened a new office, London South West, based in Putney in March 2019. Their very first customer was the splendidly named – for all fans of ‘The Jam’ – ‘Growing Underground’.
Based in Clapham, ‘Growing Underground’ is an urban fresh produce business which grows a variety of leafy green vegetables and herbs including coriander, rocket, mustard, sunflower and pea shoots. What sets it apart from the rest is that the whole operation is based underground, in an abandoned World War 2 air-raid shelter.
Crowdfunded, the business was founded by friends Richard Ballard and Steve Dring. It started production in 2016 and was soon supplying to New Covent Garden Market as well as Central London restaurants. High street retailers M&S, Waitrose and Planet Organic added ‘Growing Underground’ products to their shelves in 2017. The company now employs 25 staff.
“We’ve 65,000 square feet of space at the farm,” says co-founder Richard Ballard. “Using hydroponics, LED lighting, controlled humidity and constant temperature control we can grow all year round. In the northern hemisphere, you could probably crop pea shoots eight to ten times a year; underground we can do 60! So the additional energy costs are quickly repaid by the regularity of cropping. As part of our growing business, we run regular tours for the general public.”
Sindy Sohal from Driver Hire London South West added: “We’re supplying van drivers to ‘Growing Underground’ to take deliveries both locally and to a regional distribution centre in Cambridge. Our drivers really enjoy working for ‘Growing Underground’.”
Growing Underground Photo by Pete Muller