Your weekly insight of things you may have missed

Share on Facebook ?   Tweet this Email ?   Share on Google +
Email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.
Facebook Twitter Google

Growing Underground - the next 'Renewables'

- Revolutionary Subterranean Farms

   Effective Land Use

Many crops are now being grown in greenhouses. Although this provides a controllable growth environment, greenhouses are heavy energy consumers. Vertical farms are a relatively recent adaptation of the traditional greenhouse and are suitable for use in cities, as their tall glass structures provide high crop yields on a small land area. 


However, vertical farming systems are expensive to manufacture and install, and require a large amount of water and energy for heating and cooling. They are also vulnerable to extreme weather conditions, wars and terrorism.

   A Tasty Alternative

The newly patented concept for subterranean farms is an alternative approach to large scale crop production. These farms could be created close to, or beneath, population centres to reduce transportation costs and CO2 emissions. Cost effective subterranean tunnels for crop planting could be constructed using new drilling techniques and these could be linked with existing coal mining and civil air defence tunnels, many of which are now abandoned. The new subterranean farms would form a network of tunnels for intensive crop farming to feed rising urban populations.

   Avoiding Redundancy

There are millions of redundant coal mines and tunnels in the world which could be linked to new tunnels for crop production. In the UK there are over 1500 redundant coal mines, and in China, there are over 12,000 abandoned coal mines (0.6 million m3), 7.2 billion m3 of tunnels and about 1 billion m3 civic air defence tunnels.


A variety of crops could be grown in the subterranean farms using hydroponic planters (plant roots fed with nutrient-rich water). LED units would enable photosynthesis in the absence of sunlight. Groundwater could be used directly or water could be condensed from ambient air. A major benefit of this approach is that crop production is largely unaffected by climatic or seasonal factors - one of the greatest limitations of conventional farming methods.

   Climate Change Friendly

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is required for plant photosynthesis. The subterranean farms will use CO2 capture and release systems, as these spaces are well suited to carbon storage. Use of carbon capture systems has the added benefit of reducing CO2 concentration in the environment, as additional carbon is adsorbed in materials in the subterranean space. Advanced control systems including sensors and remote controls could be used to monitor crop production. Electricity generated from renewable sources and off-peak power could be used to power the LED lighting for plant photosynthesis.

   Existing agricultural methods have many problems:

  • High dependence on natural resources, including water, arable land space, daylight, etc. 
  • Affected by irregular seasons and climates, industrial pollution, natural disasters, extreme weather, pests and diseases, man-made accidents and wars 
  • Inefficiency, including low production capacity, and inefficient use of natural resources 
  • Crops can take up harmful materials. Cultivated land and water are heavily polluted in many countries. For example, about one fifth of arable land in China is contaminated with levels of toxins greater than Government standards (2014 data), and 14% of domestic grain contains heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium (2015).

   Subterranean Solutions

Many of these problems could be solved if agricultural plants were grown using subterranean farms. Farms underground are not strongly affected by the seasons or climates, and are resistant to natural disasters, extreme weather, pests and diseases, man-made accidents and industrial pollution. In fact, the subterranean environment is naturally suited to the growth of plants.  Plants need a closed environment with less oxygen and enriched levels of CO2 and water.  So in terms of the rationality of the biological chain and the biological space, crops are best located underground, leaving the ground surface for human and animal activities.

   The Next On-Site 'Renewables'?

The benefits of the subterranean farms are: 
  • Effective use of abandoned mines and existing civil defence underground facilities.
  • Carbon capture to reduce ambient CO2
  • Reduced dependency on cultivated land, climate and surface water resources.
  • More efficient utilization of natural resources in crop production.
  • Improved safety of crop production and reduced impact of natural and man-made factors.
  • Higher yields and greater cost efficiency.
  • Improved control over quality and food safety.
  • Removal of seasonal restrictions allowing production of all kinds of crops all year round.
  • Can be used in areas with poor natural weather conditions, e.g., cold climates, and areas with low solar insolation.
  • Crops can be produced in desert areas, dry and water-deficient areas.
  • Impact of human conflict on crop production is reduced.
  • Crops can be grown close to highly populated areas.

   For Further information please contact:

Professor Saffa Riffat
Fellow of the European Academy of Sciences
President of the World Society of Sustainable Technologies
University of Nottingham
Professor Yijun Yuan
Marie Curie Research Fellow
University of Nottingham  

   Your 'Off-Site' Partner in Development

We don't presently undertake underground farming projects (but could do), but whether you have a scheme for just a few houses, or for flats up to 6 storeys, we're interested in hearing from  architects, builders and landowners. Almost certainly you are becoming aware of changing approaches, systems, designs as well as homeowner preferences and aspirations - all things that we know a lot about. Working with our teams we believe will help you to provide you’re your clients want and more readily marketable homes.  

   Better all-round Savings

Our specialist services and CUSTOM homes division deliver best value and  protect the interests of land owners, house-builder developers, professionals and private individuals seeking to build their dream home. Our off-site construction systems also reduce the amount of material that gets wasted on site, helping to avoid land fill, hazardous waste separation and handling, They also deliver better value for you and your customers.
Call us to arrange a factory visit and discuss your ideas and needs with our in-house team of professionals for your next project. You'll be glad you did!
• Timber Frame   • SIP Frame   • Post & Beam   • Traditional Feature Trusses   • Glulam Structures  
• Hybrids   • Low Energy Components
For really attractive, flexible, affordable and HEALTHY Low Energy Homes, call, send us your drawings, or visit our manufacturing plant now.
Some of our previous weekly insights:
We'll have more information for you next week. In the meantime, head to Build News for your daily insight into the construction industry.
"Technical Timber Frame Designers & Builders of UK's 1st Amphibious House"
You are receiving this email because you have previously requested information from us or enquired about our products or services. If you would prefer not to receive anything else from us, please use this unsubscribe link rather than reporting it as spam. We take spam-avoidance seriously and will honour all requests to be removed from our mailing list.
Benfield ATT Group
5 - 6 Castle Way
Severnbridge Industrial Estate
T: (0)1291 437050