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Matteo Benvenuti, who came up with the idea together with Vertical Farm Italia:

Tunnel Farm: one of the few cases of underground 'indoor vertical farming' in the world

The official inauguration of Tunnel Farm, the vertical farm set up by Matteo Benvenuti (in the photo below), director and founder of the Vertical Farm Italia group, was held on September 15, 2023, in Torrita di Siena (Tuscany). "It takes persistence, a dash of madness, a strong idea, sturdy collaborations, and a lot of work to create a project such as this one."

"The inauguration went very well, beyond expectations. Over 400 visitors came from all over Italy and beyond, Europe, and even America. Eugenio Giani, governor of the Regione Toscana, also attended, which was a huge honor for all those who have worked for it," reported Matteo Benvenuti.

"The project started 6 years ago from the wish to salvage an old WWII air-raid shelter that ran underneath the Torrita historic city center. The idea was to take advantage of the thermo-hygrometric characteristics of the tunnel, which practically guarantee constant temperature and humidity throughout the year, to install a low-energy-impact vertical farm. In fact, thanks to the characteristics of the tunnel, energy consumption is reduced and mainly linked with the need to provide light to plants so that they can carry out their metabolic processes."

The objective was to create a system that, on top of production, could also be used for the research and testing of agritech equipment. "There is also an exhibition that illustrates the history of the Torrita municipality and of Valdichiana in general and of how agriculture has shaped the territory, enabling a quality of life that is envied by all. A sort of time machine that starts from our Etruscan-Roman origins to the present represented by the vertical farm."

According to Benvenuti, the vertical farm is a tool capable of producing a lot in a small space but which is part of a wider project.

Tunnel Farm: one of the few cases in the world of underground "indoor vertical farming"
"It is one of the very few cases in the world of underground crops and the first owned by a Municipality. In fact, the investment was made entirely by the Municipality of Torrita di Siena. Also considering the aim of the farm, we chose to grow multiple species: we have leaf vegetables such as salads, radicchio, beets, spinach, aromatic herbs, parsley and basil, and fruiting vegetables including zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes."

"All in all, we have 530 leaf and 24 fruiting vegetables in under 6 square meters. For the same number of plants, we would have needed 50 sq m of open fields! Cycles will be continuous, and we have estimated that, once production is in full swing, we should be able to harvest between 30 to 40 kg per month with a very low energy consumption."

The vertical farm uses a closed-cycle soilless cultivation system that is entirely automated. A control unit performs all the operations necessary to provide plants with the appropriate growing conditions. The system is controlled remotely, so management operations are simplified and reduced to a minimum.

"Basically, we just need to plant the plants and harvest, which will be carried out by a few trained volunteers. Vertical Farm Italia will instead provide assistance for more specialized operations. Production will be destined to the municipality canteen, and part of it will be donated to families in need."

The Tunnel Farm is a permanent setup, and events and visits will be organized over the next few months. Find all information at

"We are also working on other projects to reuse and reconvert other abandoned facilities, as well as on expanding the Tunnel Farm."

Photos supplied by Matteo Benvenuti

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