Underground farm stays connected

Underground farm stays connected

Commercial urban farm, Growing Underground, operates 100ft under the streets of Clapham in London. But the team need to stay connected and share information quickly and easily no matter where they are. Struggling with different devices and limited connectivity, they turned to Microsoft.

Deep under the streets of London something unexpected is happening. Entrepreneur Richard Ballard and his business partners have transformed old World War 2 bunkers into a place of creation. ‘Growing Underground’ is a commercial urban farm unlike any other – growing sustainable micro greens and salad leaves 33 metres under the busy streets of Clapham in an environment which is water efficient, energy efficient and pesticide free.

Unlike traditional farm owners, Richard can maintain complete control over his environment, so every leaf tastes equally amazing and these mouth-wateringly fresh products can be delivered to markets, restaurants and food retailers around London within 4 hours of being picked and packed. In such an unusual location, control and communication are vital for success, and as the business looks to expand further into the tunnels increasing product range and output, Microsoft technology has been helping them to keep close contact, stay agile and be ready for anything.

Cloud-based Office 365 applications and Windows 10 devices give them the perfect small business package, enabling them to work efficiently and securely with real-time information and the promise of a core IT platform that will grow with them for years to come.


Goal – Stay connected from any device, in any location

An average farm day is systematic and follows a predictable pattern, but the 4-strong Growing Underground team has to be in many different places working in a variety of different ways. In the tunnels there are no phone lines but contact must be maintained with the office, where enquiries are handled. Regular updates on the farm’s climate need to be readily available to everyone, even those who travel extensively between customers and suppliers and those working remotely.

When the business started, there was a wide variety of PCs, laptops and devices in use so sharing information was not always straight-forward. Richard wanted to make the day-to-day running of the business as efficient as possible. He came across Office 365 and the Windows 10 Surface Pro tablets from Microsoft which sparked a journey to further explore the power of the cloud.

Richard recalls “It’s important that we can get information about the farm to everyone wherever they are and freely share documents. As a small business, having servers onsite wasn’t realistic from a space or cost perspective but we needed a system that everyone could log onto and use no matter what type of device they had. Office 365 seemed like a very attractive option for us with a mix of Windows and Apple users.”


Solution – A platform for real-time information sharing

Growing Underground invested in Office 365, light-weight Microsoft Surface Pro 3 devices and Lumia Smartphones, powered by Windows 10 - an integrated suite of Microsoft cloud services and devices that helps them to communicate freely, as well as create and share real time data at any time through any device. OneDrive for Business and SharePoint combine to form a central location where documents are saved and where the team can edit the same document, at the same time, without worrying about whether they have the latest version. Previous telephony and communications challenges have disappeared thanks to Skype for Business. Instant messaging helps the farm and the office to share quick updates about the environment, while remote and mobile users can talk to one another and customers using audio and video calling.

Remote workers no longer need to carry weighty laptops - armed with sleek Surface Pro 3 tablets and Lumia smartphones, they can enjoy a unified user experience using their favourite apps on powerful yet lightweight devices perfectly suited to any working environment. Richard comments “As a small business, we just can’t operate with everyone in the same physical location but with Microsoft technology we can be synchronized wherever we are. We can work together on the same documents from different places and we’re always connected and up-to-date with what’s happening on the farm. Without that immediacy we couldn’t have taken the business so far, so fast.”


Benefits & Value

Connected team productivity