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From drugs to mushrooms: Underground farmers take root in Paris

[Feb. 19, 2021: Josh Shavit]

A 3,000-square meter garage space in Paris that once served as a hub for prostitution and drugs has found new life as an urban farming unit that produces up to a ton of organic endives and mushrooms — shiitake being the specialty — every week.

“Four years ago in this garage, there was drug trafficking and prostitution and after a police intervention it was left abandoned,” said Jean-Noël Gertz, co-founder La Caverne (“The Cave”) start-up, located in Paris’ La Chapelle neighborhood.

“Now there are more than 10 workers producing bio and zero-emissions products,” he adds.

“It’s more and more common for people to want to know where their food comes from and how it arrived on the plate,” Gertz, who mainly sells the produce to restaurants and local ecological shops, adds.


Gertz studied thermal engineering and began farming in a 19th-century bunker in Strasbourg until he was presented with the opportunity of acquiring the Parisian garage, which has been converted into a kind of subterranean greenhouse.

The electricity used to power La Caverne is fueled by solar energy, what little water is needed to grow the produce comes from the tap and the harvest is delivered by bicycle. Their target is to reduce greenhouse emissions as much as possible.

Things are going so well for La Caverne that they plan to expand. EFE-EPA


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