ECHO – Seed Conservation in Space

Designed in collaboration with Freia Achenbach.

Global biodiversity is continually being reduced by focussing on efficient plant varieties for mass production. Special variety-specific qualities are getting lost, such as tolerance to pests and diseases, adaptability to local soil and climatic conditions, and good nutritional values and tastes. When climate change and pests threaten the cultivated crops, we depend on fallbacks to provide for a growing world population.

So how can we preserve the seeds of today for a future generation?

Our concept is an autonomous seed capsule in space. It will be filled with a genetically diverse selection of seeds of the world’s most important crops and will then be shot into orbit.

The coldness of space passively cools the seeds to conserve them, special materials shield off space radiation. After about 500 years the capsule returns to earth.

Sorted into 40 separate boxes, the seed containers can be removed from the capsule and brought to a stationary storage to allow the recultivation of specific sorts.

The lids contain a passive data storage consisting of microscopically engraved nickel plates. Precise genetic information can be retrieved using only optical magnification.

See the rotating storage mechanism in action: