CROP: the Crop Research Observation Platform

A prototype digital twin of the Growing Underground underground farm operated by Zero Carbon Farms Ltd

Project status



The Growing Underground farm is located 33m below the pavements of London's Clapham High Street in former World War II air raid shelters. The space-efficient farm produces micro greens under artificial lighting all year round. Optimisation of resources is key to ensuring minimal environmental impact. The CROP digital twin is being developed for monitoring environmental and crop conditions and simulating potential operational changes. The platform will maximise the interpretability of operational data and facilitate improvements to crop growth efficiency.

Explaining the science

By providing immediate access to visualisations of current and historic conditions in the farm and crop growth data, insights can be gained which improve farm efficiency and enhance yield. Real-time data are accessible via a 3D visualisation with direct links to sensors in the farm. Enhanced visualisations are also provided that show how many hours the environmental conditions at different locations within the farm were within different bands over the previous day and week. This gives immediate insight into whether acceptable conditions were maintained over the crop cycle.

Temperature forecasting tools are also provided, together with a scenario evaluation tool that will allow a user to 'virtually' change conditions in the farm and explore the potential impact.

The CROP cloud-based web application is the main interface for the digital twin. This includes a Unity 3D model of the farm with links to live data streams from sensors within the farm. A PostgreSQL database lies at the heart of the digital twin; this stores incoming data from the sensors and the associated models and is accessed by the web application.

Project aims

The overall aim of the CROP project is to prototype a digital twin of the Growing Underground farm which:

  • collects heterogeneous IoT sensor data,
  • provides 3D visualisation of the underground farm and sensor locations
  • facilitates interpretation of environmental data and the impact on growing conditions, and
  • helps to analyse farm conditions at various points in time

At the same time an infrastructure is being developed and trialled which could potentially form the basis of a digital twin in any built environment project.


This project has a direct real-world application and potential for impact on development of digital twin infrastructure, particularly in the built environment.

Recent updates

CROP2, completed in December 2021, saw the implementation of a temperature forecasting model and a scenario evaluation tool.

CROP3, currently underway, will see the incorporation of more detailed crop monitoring and yield data, and increased functionality of the dashboard.


Researchers and collaborators

Contact info

Rebecca Ward
[email protected]