Got an old car park and don’t know what to do with it? An ingenious mushroom farmer in Paris may just have the answer. High rise housing, abandoned 1970s underground car parks and bio farming may seem unlikely companions, but La Caverne urban mushroom farm is a phenomenon defying all expectations. Yes, mushroom farming in Paris is really a thing.
Mushroom Farming in the 18th arr.
This urban bio farm in northern Paris, the 18th arrondissement, no less, is the first of it’s kind. Growing button, Shitake and Oyster mushrooms using hydrponics, the start up is thriving.
The farm is the creation of farmer, Théo Champagnat and chef, Noël Gertz. The pair met when mayor of Paris, Anne Hildago launched Les Parisculteurs, a competition to identify potential farming sites within the capital. The winner was Cycloponics. The site, a disused underground car park in La Chapelle, northern Paris.
La Caverne has been utilising abandoned urban space since 2017. It now employs a team of ten and produces a whopping 660 pounds of vegetables a month.
Mushrooms in the ‘Hood
The farm uses as much recycled equipment as they are able to with the company aiming for a carbon neural footprint. The ten strong team even use scooters and electric vehicles to navigate the 3600 metre square site. This is no ordinary farm. The car park sits directly underneath social housing. A tower block, where over 300 people go about their daily lives.
The start up has been warmly welcomed by the neighbourhood. All the more as the abandoned car park had previously hosted more nefarious activities including drug dealing and prostitution. The reinvention of this space has been profound. Residents can now buy discounted mushrooms and greens. There’s also an opportunity to train in hydroponics which can be done on a much smaller scale. It’s even possible within the 300 flats, on a table top. The technique involves growing vegetables in a nutrient solution instead of soil. The concept uses water, sand, gravel or clay to grow vegetables under LED lights.
La Caverne also supplies local restaurants, grocery stalls and farmers markets. Selling their harvest in the neighbourhood further reduces the pollution often associated with the transportation of food. It’s a win – win.
The Perfect Mushroom Farming Environment
The farm uses permaculture techniques throughout the subterranean space creating the perfect environment for the produce to thrive. The mushrooms release CO2 as they grow. That CO2 is then absorbed by the other greens. The farm composts and reuses any waste material. Whilst the mushrooms require very little light and are able to thrive underground, the other greens require a light source. They receive light from energy efficient LED lights. The farm has effectively created a self contained mini ecosystem under the city.
An Urban Space Renaissance
Parisian planners were somewhat over enthusiastic with the provision of underground parking for city housing blocks in the 1960s and 70s. Declining car ownership alongside the proliferation of e scooters, e bikes and car sharing schemes in the city have left these urban spaces fallow. It’s estimated that there are hundreds of similar abandoned or disused places under the capital, just waiting for a new lease of life. We may well be on the cusp of an urban space renaissance or, at the very least, a shroom boom.