As a national runner-up at this year’s James Dyson Awards, DISPERSEED hopes to restore floral diversity and a thriving ecosystem to forests devastated by fire. The 3D printed seed ball invites animals and birds to come and feed, allowing the seeds to fall to the forest floor.
While man-made climate change has certainly caused its share of problems, wildfires aren’t exactly new to this world. In fact, certain plant species have even adapted to fire over millions of years. These species, called “pyrophytic” plants, are uniquely built to survive wildfires. However, this survival tactic creates a major imbalance in the natural diversity of a forest. With each subsequent fire, healthy plants are lost in the flames while resilient pyrophytic species take their place. This affects a forest’s ecosystem while also making it more vulnerable to fires, as pyrophytic trees are often drier than others (which ignite them easily). While avoiding/preventing forest fires is an incredibly challenging task, a group of industrial designers at the Polytechnic University of Valencia have come up with a solution to help bring floral diversity back to the forests. Meet DISPERSEED, a nature-inspired seed ball that helps repopulate once-thriving forests.
Designers: Irene Badía Madrigal, Diego Polo García, Carmen Amorós Egea, Claudia Daudén Llodrá, Carmen Benítez Mora & David Zaragozá Sabater
Inspired by the shape of pollen (as a tip of the hat to pollen’s ability to travel far and wide to pollinate flowers), DISPERSEED is a sort of bright red sphere you can hang in a fire-ravaged forest. 3D printed from edible dough, the sphere is filled with seeds that either fall to the ground or are picked up by small animals and birds, who carry the seeds far and wide and help the seeds multiply.
The seeds should catch the eye. Their bright red color and fruit-like size attract birds and animals that will try to peck or dig in them. Seeds floating in the orb are ingested by these animals, pass through their digestive tract, and eventually reach the ground after the animal expels them. In the animal’s digestive tract, the seeds lose their outer covering, making it easier for them to germinate (a process known as endozoochory). The seeds then help more plants to sprout which allow a forest to recover after a fire and the DISPERSEED itself will biodegrade into the soil as it is made entirely of natural materials.
“It’s unusual in Spain to have a summer where there aren’t any forest fires,” say the designers behind the DISPERSEED. “We decided to develop a product that favors the diversity of non-pyrophytic species in Mediterranean forest areas. This product enables the creation of healthier and more sustainable forests that are more resilient to these types of disasters.”
“Our future plans include aspects such as implementing the prototype in burnt forests in the Mediterranean region and continuing materials research using 3D printing technology,” the designers mention in their pitch for the James Dyson Awards program. “It could also be extended to unburned areas to build diversity and prevent future fires. Another great idea would be to adapt it for professional forestry use to multiply its uses.”