With the ever-declining demand for coal around the world, there are over 150,000 coal mine shafts that are abandoned in the UK alone – but they might soon be given new life in the form of ultra-efficient indoor farms.
Though it might seem counterintuitive, coal mines are actually an “almost perfect” environment for farming. These underground tunnels naturally maintain consistent temperatures, and they are unaffected by weather changes, seasons, or the unexpected symptoms of climate change.
Furthermore, vertical indoor farms use up to 95% less water than regular land farming and no pesticides.
In a former air-raid tunnel in London, scientists Richard Ballard and Steven Dring are testing their plans for future underground farms, and they are already seeing immense potential in their work. The repurposed World War Two bunker is currently providing healthy vegetables to supermarkets of the Clapham Common neighborhood, all while avoiding the dynamic – and sometimes harmful – weather conditions that most farms encounter on the surface.
Thanks to the success of their undertaking, the concept is being expanded to other abandoned coal mines in the UK. The proposal has already garnered support from scientists and economists alike, as they foresee this venture as a means not only to provide a sustainable harvest, but as a measure that would create jobs in areas that have lacked economic stability since the closure of the mines.
“A lot of hill farmers in Wales are living hand to mouth so anything that helps diversity and brings a new form of income would be very welcome,” Land Trust Chief Executive Euan Hall told BBC.
Research regarding the new farming technique shows that, given the proper allocation of resources and farm design, coal mine farms can successfully generate up to ten times more food than surface level farms. This means that less land would need to be allocated to farmland, which would in turn drastically reduce greenhouse emissions and deforestation, as agriculturalists could use carbon-capture technology to trap and utilize the crop’s natural CO2 emissions.
The technique could also result in the revitalization of many species that are endangered by farming practices.
The proposal has garnered support from the Chinese government as well as UK locals and officials; and though there are still many hurdles that need to be cleared before the plans for these mines can be fully realized, the initiative could become a landmark stepping stone to a more sustainable global future.
THROWBACK THURSDAY! Remembering a very special visit down on the farm earlier this year from @MONKEY_47 Looking forward to celebrating something very special with these guys soon. Stay tuned! ???#minesagin #undergroundfarm pic.twitter.com/ycAevlNaP8— Growing Underground (@GrownUnder) September 27, 2018
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