University of Cambridge: Thirty-three metres below London’s Clapham High Street is the world’s first underground farm. It’s a green revolution and it’s powered by data. Tunnels originally built to shelter Londoners from the bombing in WW2 sprouted new life when Growing Underground co-founders Richard Ballard and Steve Dring decided it was a perfect site to grow food while reducing the carbon footprint of transport and supply. Down in the tunnels, a team of engineers and data specialists has been helping the farmers to optimise crop performance and reduce energy use.

They are led by Dr Ruchi Choudhary from the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction at the University of Cambridge and the Data-centric Engineering Programme at the Alan Turing Institute. Together, they’ve reduced the time it takes to grow some crops by 50% and all crops by an average of 7%, as well as increasing yields. Meanwhile, the crops are grown using less space and water than conventional greenhouse growing, no pesticides and 100% renewable energy. This can only happen if every element of the farming process is carefully measured and tweaked and measured again. The plants on this farm get exactly what they need at every moment of every day thanks to the power of data – and a ‘digital twin’ looking out for its sibling from a laboratory in Cambridge. 

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