Utilizing this unused real estate, named La Caverne, for mushroom farming is a company called Cycloponics.
Empty underground parking lots may seem like the perfect setting for a thriller action movie. But this unused parking lot in Paris is being used for much more than just an action sequence. They are being used for much more productive activities, specifically for mushroom farming. The best conditions for growing mushroom is a cool, dark, damp place. An underground parking lot meets all these conditions and the fact that it is within the city is also a bonus. Utilizing this unused real estate, named La Caverne, to its best purpose is a company called Cycloponics and they have been doing so since 2017.
This subterranean agricultural operation stretches across 9,000 sq m and is one of the many parking spaces that was built in the 1960s and '70s. Over time, there was a fall in car ownership and many of these sites remained unused. Until now. Located beneath a social housing complex, Cycloponics has been using this parking space to grow shitake, oyster, and white button mushrooms. They also undertake delivery of their products to organic shops in the city’s inner north, reported The Guardian. The delivery is usually not that far either and it is done on a bike and "with a smile. Like that, less pollution and more good humor!"
The website of La Caverene or The Cave also mentions that their produce is harvested the same day and is fresh. It promises to be "full of flavor and packed with nutrients." It further stated, "By fitting into the heart of neighborhoods, we are also trying to boost an entire ecosystem, in particular by locally creating new jobs that make sense." Not to mention the environmental benefits. As well as health benefits. “We have a lot of space here and we walk a lot, we’re all in very good health," Jean-Noël Gertz, a thermal engineer and founder of agricultural start-up Cycloponics stated.
"Seventy percent of people live in towns today, and in this population, there is a demand for local and organic products like ours," Theo Champagnat who co-founded La Caverene said. And now, urban farmers produce organic mushrooms anywhere between 220 and 440 pounds or 100-200 kilograms per day. The mushrooms are grown in straw bales, Gertz explained, "First the straw is sterilized, then incubated with mycelium. We then do the fruiting." The mushrooms are then harvested. A conveyor belt runs across several numbered parking bays and staff separate endives from their gnarly roots to get them ready for packing into crates for delivery. This is then transported by cargo bike to a food cooperative that distributes it to retailers, reported Tree Hugger.
"We want to see the emergence of a model of urban agriculture that is both productive and virtuous, help to rethink the city of tomorrow, imagine new ways of producing, restore the image of farmers, often misunderstood, create new local jobs, revitalize neighborhoods, and finally to offer urban residents quality local production," La Caverne website stated. It also aims to have emission-free transportation and soon all the cars they use will also be electrical. This model could become prevalent in other major cities like London and New York too. La Caverne added, "In addition, all our [harvest] surpluses are sent to [food banks] or to restaurants. Sharing is at the heart of our values."
This farming was made possible when the Paris government launched the Reinventing Paris — The Subterranean Secrets of Paris program to transform these underground spaces into something useful. In addition to mushroom farming, the underground spaces also saw cultural progress when these empty spaces were turned into markets, food courts, and also a cocktail bar, as per Good News Network.