Inside The Doomsday Vault That Stores Every Known Crop On The Planet
If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if a catastrophe struck and wiped out all the living crops on Earth, then you’re about to find out.
Located 500 feet below sleepy, icy Svalbard, a place known for being one of the most remote settlements in the world and home to more polar bears than people, hides the Svalbard Global Seed Vault – a collection of millions of seeds needed to grow global crops.
It looks like an evil villain’s lair from the outside, but inside it’s anything but. The doomsday bunker is essentially a black box that can help feed the world should a natural disaster happen, threatening the global food supply.
Crop Trust said:
Permafrost and thick rock ensure that the seed samples will remain frozen even without power. The Vault is the ultimate insurance policy for the world’s food supply, offering options for future generations to overcome the challenges of climate change and population growth.
It will secure, for centuries, millions of seeds representing every important crop variety available in the world today. It is the final back up.
Never think we’ll need it? Think again. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was tapped-up in 2016 by the ICARDA seed bank in Aleppo, Syria – moved to Beirut due to the civil war – and it requested 116,000 samples from Svalbard to restore a collection damaged during the conflict, Business Insider reported.
The vault has the capacity to store up to 4.5 million varieties of crops, each containing around 500 seeds, bringing the total seed capacity to 2.5 billion.
The vault is currently pretty empty in terms of its maximum capacity, with just a mere 980,000 samples stored in it from almost every country in the world, according to Crop Trust.
Even in its current state, it already holds the most diverse collection of food crop seeds in the world, with 1,057,151 individual seeds currently in storage.
The Vault aims to safeguard as many cops as possible without storing any undue duplicates. It may seem relatively empty now, but that’s because the procuring of crop seeds takes time.
For some crops, seeds need to be multiplied by genebanks while others need regenerating before they can be stored in Svalbard. The process will take years to fully populate the Vault, but it could one day save us all, should the worst happen.
Crop material must be kept at -18ºC for optimal storage conditions. Seeds are kept in three-ply foil packages about the thickness of a luxury toilet roll sheet, before being sealed inside boxes and stored on shelves.
The low temperature and moisture inside the vault provides optimum conditions for the seeds and minimises the chance of them spoiling.
Many of the world’s 1,700 genebanks, like Svalbard’s, are vulnerable to disasters such as natural catastrophe, war and climate change. They’re also vulnerable to more avoidable disasters like poor funding or management.
Having a vault like the one in Svalbard acts as a safety net for humankind; a backup drive from which we can all restore modern agricultural life.