A subway station in a skyscraper-studded metropolis might seem like an unlikely place to grow leafy greens, but that’s exactly what South Korean tech startup Farm8 has been doing since September 2019. Situated in Sangdo Station on Line 7 of the Seoul Metro, the company’s Metro Farm is a sleek, glass-encased plant nursery housing rows upon rows of hydroponic growing trays.
Under the glow of LED lights and the attention of an automated tech network, 30 varieties of organic edible plants, including microgreens, flowers, and sprouts, thrive. According to Farm8, the subterranean vertical farm is 40 times as efficient as its more traditional counterpart. Even though the agricultural experiment occupies a modest 394 square meters of space, it produces around 30 kilograms of fresh vegetables daily. Most of those go directly into the salad bowls and smoothies of the 1,000-odd customers who frequent Farm8’s adjacent café.
“We want to change the perception of farming,” Lee Hwang-myung, senior manager of the project, told Rest of the World. “We want to encourage people to see agriculture as something not of the past but as part of the future.”
Interest in urban farming has been on the rise for some time in Asia, where innovators in some of the most densely populated cities in the world are seeking ways to reduce carbon emissions and ensure food security for their inhabitants. Since 2015, more than 60 urban farms have cropped up everywhere from former helicopter pads to the rooftops of shopping malls in Hong Kong. In Bangkok, the rooftop of Thammasat University is home to a sprawling 22,000-square-meter green oasis.
In Seoul, the Metro Farm has already proven such a hit that Farm8 has installed four others in subway stations around the city. The serene, underground landscapes serve as both a viable food source and as promotion for the startup, which offers various tiers of its vertical farms to corporations and private individuals looking to make their space—and the world—a little greener.
Know Before You Go
Prices in Seoul can be steep, but the organic salads and vegetable juices at Metro Farm's café are kept intentionally affordable. More than 7 million people pass through Seoul's subway system each day, so try to avoid rush hour if possible when stopping by the farm.