Eco-farmer takes root underneath Sheffield’s Kelham Island

A former builder who dreamed of the good life has transformed forgotten underground vaults into a haven for producing organic edible produce.

Luke Ellis, founder of Leaf + Shoot in Sheffield.

Luke Ellis founded Leaf + Shoot four months ago and today his underground farm at Kelham Island in Sheffield produces a range of mushrooms, greens and fresh herbs which are sold directly to homeowners living in the steel city.

Mr Ellis founded the business after realising the emerging technology hydroponics – which replaces soil with organic feed - could be used as a way of producing leafy vegetables and herbs without the need for soil or natural light.

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He set up the company with help from Launchpad, which provides business support to entrepreneurs based in the Sheffield City Region.

As part of his commitment towards building a sustainable, green business, Luke took the conscious decision to eliminate plastic from his business wherever possible, whilst the nutrients fed to his plants uses waste food, paper, used coffee and ash which is composted and turned into organic feed. He discovered the feed not only helped his plants to grow quickly, but the nutrients meant his produce was bursting with flavour.

Mr Ellis said: “Bioponic vertical farming may sound like something straight out of the world of science fiction, but it is a sector which holds a lot of potential for growth and more importantly, offers solutions to issues like wasted food, inefficient traditional farming techniques, soil degradation, and address the challenges posed by climate change and global food shortages.

“As a child I would regularly help on my mum’s allotment, and I’ve always thought there’s something quite special about growing and harvesting your own food. As I began to learn about bioponics, I quickly realised most companies in the sector used high-tech, state-of-the-art equipment and facilities which typically required significant levels of investment yet delivered few environmental benefits. I wanted to create a way of making the technology far accessible to all. Going forward, I am hoping that Leaf + Shoot won’t just become well known for our produce, but a company which will help to inspire others to explore bioponic growing, helping us all to play our part in building a greener, more sustainable society.”

Andrew Bunn, business adviser, Sheffield City Region Launchpad Programme, added: “Although it is early days for the business Luke has already established a growing client base and the steps he has taken have helped plant the seeds for significant future growth and I’m looking forward to continuing working with Luke as his business continues to grow and evolve.”

The Sheffield City Region’s Launchpad programme helps individuals who are thinking of starting their own business as well as providing ongoing support and guidance to existing business owners.

The programme is financially supported by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by local authorities based in the Sheffield City Region and the Princes Trust.

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