alaska seed vault

Alaska Seed Vault


The Alaska Seed Vault is a secure facility located in the village of Longyearbyen, Norway. Its purpose? Store and preserve seeds of agricultural crops in case of a global disaster. It's designed to be an ‘insurance policy' – to safeguard the world's agricultural diversity and help countries protect their plant diversity.

Let's cover the basics of the seed vault and its implications for agricultural and global security:

Brief overview of the Alaska Seed Vault

The Alaska Seed Vault (ASV) is a secure storage facility for global plant genetic resources. It is located 120 miles away from Fairbanks, Alaska and was set up by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Science Foundation of the U.S. government.

This facility stores seed samples from every continent. This includes collections from North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Thanks to local partners in these regions, over 2 million seed samples have been stored at the ASV since its launch in 2007.

The sample sets are separated into traditional crop varieties and wild relatives of cultivated species. This provides a great source for plant breeders who want to create crops that are resilient to climate change, have higher yields, or better nutrition.

At the ASV, all seed samples are kept at 4 degrees Celsius. This is the best temperature for preserving seeds' viability. The facility takes special measures to maintain biosecurity and has emergency evacuation plans for all samples stored on-site. Also, there are strict policies for sample retrieval. Organizations or public institutions can access their own samples from the ASV after getting approval from both facilities.


The Alaska Seed Vault was inaugurated in 2016. It is a safekeeping facility for agricultural seeds, with the purpose of safeguarding crop diversity. Located in Fairbanks, it is the only one of its kind in the world.

The Seed Vault acts as a global resource for our food supply. Its aim is to preserve genetic diversity of food crops for generations to come.

Origins of the Alaska Seed Vault

The Alaska Seed Vault is an international seed bank, located outside Fairbanks, Alaska. It's the northernmost global seed bank in the world. Former Governor Sarah Palin and Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski proposed this ambitious project in 2008. They wanted to provide a failsafe against natural disasters or man-made catastrophes that could threaten seed sources worldwide. An $8 million grant from a generous donor made it possible.

The design was like a safety deposit box for seeds. Construction began in May 2017 at its current location just outside Fairbanks, Alaska. It is sealed into permafrost, providing naturally low temperatures and protection from external climate changes and potential disasters. The facility works without power or mechanical assistance, preserving seed collections with no degradation over time.

The Seed Vault's mission is to ensure global plant diversity. It holds duplicates of rare seeds, collected by 2000 partner institutions over 40 years. This resource library supports gene banks across the world, from Africa and Asia Pacific to Latin America. It maintains both in-situ (on-site) and ex situ (off-site) backups, monitored by CGIAR (the Consortium for International Agricultural Research).

Purpose of the Alaska Seed Vault

The Alaska Seed Vault is a secure facility in Svalbard, Norway. It's designed to store millions of seeds from plants across the world. This international seed bank was made to protect against global catastrophes such as pandemics, wars, and natural disasters. The idea comes from the Arctic's permafrost, which preserves organic material for many years. It offers safety and security against biodiversity losses.

The main purpose of this vault is a repository or “backup plan” for genebanks across the globe. This helps preserve culture after disasters, due to genetic diversity loss. It has thick walls and a low temperature environment, making it one of the most secure genebanks. It stores valuable genetic material that's accessible for researchers to use.

Organizations such as The Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT) and The Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies (CIES) have access to the Alaska Seed Vault. This helps us to preserve qualities like resilience and adaptability. It also prepares our food supply chain for any disruption that threatens human health or our ecosystems.


The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is situated on the Svalbard Archipelago, which is 800 miles from the North Pole. Its mission? To ensure the preservation of plant genetic diversity. It does this by storing and maintaining copies of crop seed collections from genebanks round the world.

The seed vault is in an underground facility, carved out of a sandstone mountain. It offers secure, long-term storage for hundreds of thousands of seed samples from many countries.

Where is the Alaska Seed Vault Located?

The Alaska Seed Vault is situated in a secluded spot in Alaska, 845 miles (1,360 kilometers) away from Anchorage. It is near the Arctic Ocean on the remote island of Spitsbergen. It is made from a solid block of concrete with an aluminum roof and three steel doors. It is designed to face extreme cold climate and earthquakes.

Inside, it stores more than 700,000 varieties of seeds from all around the world. These include grains such as wheat, and seeds held in local storage for centuries by the Native Alaskans. Each packet is stored at a temperature between 0 ˚C and 4˚C, and a humidity level between 4% -10%. The vault is also self-sustainable, with no outside power or heating – it has its own climate-controlled environment.

Climate and Geography of the Alaska Seed Vault

The Alaskan Seed Vault is in Svalbard's arctic archipelago. It's freezing there on average, and hardly any sunlight during winter. The cold temperatures, stable permafrost and low humidity make it perfect for long-term storage.

It's 800 miles from the North Pole, off Norway's coast. No worry of earthquakes or other disasters here! Plus, Svalbard has little seismic activity and no floods or droughts.

The land is glaciers, snowfields and mountains over a thick 400ft bedrock. This safeguards against groundwater leaking into the vault. Plus, it's far from human settlements and has rugged terrain, meaning no need for walls or fences for extra security.


Design of the Alaska Global Seed Vault is special. It has two levels and three chambers. Walls are insulated! It's built into a mountain side too. That's how it can survive any disaster. Let's take a look. How does it protect its contents?

Structure of the Alaska Seed Vault

The Alaska Seed Vault is a complex and secure structure. It's in Fairbanks, near the Arctic tundra. It can store 4.5 million varieties of seeds at below-freezing temperatures. Its temperature, humidity and oxygen levels are checked often for proper preservation. Steel-reinforced concrete with metal plates make up the walls to protect from weather and seismic activity.

A robotic arm rapidly scans sample requests and sends out shipments for agricultural research or to help farmers. Motion sensors monitor containers 24/7 to prevent unauthorized access.

Only authorized personnel have access to digital records and key codes. There are gatehouses and cabin buildings with visiting arrangements. Backup generators keep freezers running in case of natural disasters or power outages.

Security Measures of the Alaska Seed Vault

The Alaska Seed Vault is built to keep global disasters from harming seed collections. The 260,000-square-foot secure facility is in the Arctic Circle and carved into a mountain. It's a joint project of the U.S. and Norway with the mission of safeguarding vital crops.

Security is implemented with digital access codes, motion detection sensors, multiple cameras, staff presence and biometric identification. An air filtration system tracks air quality and pressure, allowing seeds to remain viable for up to 200 years. The vault is also shielded from power outages or extreme weather with an electromagnetic pulse shield. Rules restrict entry to the area storing seeds from different regions.

To further protect the mountain facility, a 500 ton reinforced steel wall was erected – making it virtually impenetrable. The Seed Vault was designed for sustainability and is one of the world's most secure permanent storage solutions. It will last hundreds to thousands of years into future generations.


The Alaska Seed Vault is a secure facility in Norway. It stores seeds from a multitude of plants from around the world. These seeds are kept in a deep freeze to preserve them. They can be used in the event of an ecological disaster or for other reasons. This vault is essential for preserving the world's biodiversity and protecting our food supply.

Let's explore the types of seeds stored in the Alaska Seed Vault and their importance:

Types of Seeds Stored in the Alaska Seed Vault

The Alaska Seed Vault is the go-to site for protecting plant diversity. It stores large international collections of seeds from many crop species, such as food crops like oats, barley, and corn. Pasture grasses also have diverse genetic characteristics, which could be threatened by climate change. Forest trees provide timber, habitat, and help sequester carbon dioxide. Aquatic plants like water lilies are also kept here, ensuring their survival under harsh conditions.

How Seeds are Stored in the Alaska Seed Vault

The Alaska Seed Vault, also known as the Doomsday Vault, holds more than 1.5 million seed samples from across the globe. They are cryogenically frozen at -18°C in steel containers and placed in special shelving units. The vault has a system that funnels air away from the seeds.

The main purpose of preserving the samples is to guarantee their long-term survival, even if they become extinct due to extreme weather or other disasters. Also, the seeds can be used to breed new crop varieties or hybrid plants with better yields or disease resistance.

Each sample is a 1g pouchmallows (aluminum foil) package, vacuum-sealed and enclosed with plastic wraps. It's then put in an aluminum tin for extra moisture and light protection. The seed packets are organized by type and variety and stored in deep freezers with special numbers for traceability.


The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is in Norway. It stores seeds from everywhere. This vault is secure and provides a safe place to keep crop seeds if a crisis happens. So, the vault is essential for agriculture diversity and safety.

Summary of the Alaska Seed Vault

The Alaska Seed Vault serves as a secure storage place for crop seeds from Alaska, other states, and countries. It aims to protect the genetic diversity of important crops in case of disasters, diseases, or other unexpected events that could destroy crops and affect food security.

It is managed by the State of Alaska and is situated near Fairbanks in a former gold mine. It has an environmental system to guard its contents from extreme temperatures and humidity changes. The entrance features two-level protection, with ambient air intake and air filtration systems.

The seed vault stores 2000+ varieties of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and grains for agriculture use. Seeds are held at -18’C to -20’C and humidity levels of less than 4%. This grants access to varied genetics to preserve crop diversity. With its secure capacity, the Alaska Seed Vault could become a treasure keeper for global food security.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the Alaska Seed Vault?

The Alaska Seed Vault is a secure storage facility located on the remote island of Svalbard, Norway. It was built to protect the world's food supply by storing seeds from crops that are important to global agriculture in case of a potential disaster or event that threatens their survival.

2. Why was the Alaska Seed Vault built?

The Alaska Seed Vault was built to safeguard the world's food supply by preserving the genetic diversity of crops that are vital to human survival. The vault helps to ensure that if a natural disaster, disease outbreak or other crisis threatens a particular crop, there will be backup seeds available to help restore it.

3. What kind of seeds are stored in the Alaska Seed Vault?

The Alaska Seed Vault houses seeds for a wide range of crops, including wheat, rice, corn, beans, potatoes, and many others. The seeds are carefully selected from around the world to represent the most important plant varieties for global agriculture and to ensure maximum genetic diversity.

4. How is the Alaska Seed Vault protected?

The Alaska Seed Vault is protected by a series of advanced security features, including motion detectors, surveillance cameras, and a steel-reinforced entrance doorway. The facility is also located deep inside a mountain to protect it from potential natural disasters, such as earthquakes or flooding.

5. Who is responsible for the Alaska Seed Vault?

The Alaska Seed Vault is managed by the Norwegian government on behalf of the international community. It is financially supported by a number of organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

6. Can anyone visit the Alaska Seed Vault?

No, the Alaska Seed Vault is not open to the public for general tours. Access is strictly limited to authorized personnel who are responsible for handling and storing the seed samples. However, the facility can be viewed online through virtual tours and photos.

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