Abandoned coal mines across the UK could be brought back to life as huge underground farms, according to academics.

Mine shafts and tunnels are seen as “the perfect environment” for growing food such as vegetables and herbs.

The initiative is seen as a way of providing large-scale crop production for a growing global population.

Advocates say subterranean farms could yield up to ten times as much as farms above ground.

President of the World Society of Sustainable Energy Technology, Prof Saffa Riffat, believes the scheme would be a cost-effective way of meeting the growing need for food.

It could also breathe new life into many mines that have been closed since the decline of the UK coal industry in the late 1980s and offer a cheaper alternative to vertical farming in giant greenhouses.

The idea has already gained support from mine owners, including the Land Trust and Coal Authority, while the Chinese government has also expressed an interest.

There are an estimated 150,000 abandoned shafts and 25,000km-sq of disused mines and tunnels in the UK.

“I’m very excited about the enormous potential. Rather than import so much food by air, rail and sea, we could grow a lot of it here and in huge quantities,” said Prof Riffat.

“I wish I had thought of this idea when they were making all the miners redundant. We may have been able to offer them an alternative job.”

So what are underground farms, and how would they work?

A problem solved?

By all predictions, global population will continue to grow with the figure in the UK set to reach 80 million before the end of the century, according to the United Nations.

Increasingly, people are opting to live in cities rather than rural areas, putting a strain on food production and land space.

“We have a major issue with food production and supply with the world’s population expected to reach nine billion by 2050,” said Prof Riffat, of University of Nottingham.

“We need to do this for our future. We have a growing demand for food, especially in the cities, but less space to grow it.”


The entire story, including pictures and diagrams, can be found here:   https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-46221656