Seed Drives: Plant-Based Data Storage Literally Goes Viral

data seed xray example

Researcher Karin Ljubic Fister studies plant-based data storage, which involves modifying genes, bacteria and infected plants to store information in the very genetic sequences of species. Once a coding system is established, generally a form of substitution cipher, it can added to the DNA of a bacterium and used to infect a plant.

“Imagine walking through a park that is actually a library,” she says, “every plant, flower and shrub full of archived information. You sit down on a bench, touch your handheld DNA reader to a leaf and listen to the Rolling Stones directly from it, or choose a novel or watch a documentary amid the greenery.”


The result is not just data storage that lasts for the life of a given crop, but storage that is heritable, each new generation containing a “Hello World” program or whatever else you want to implant within it

Imagine using, for instance, a global seed vault to store data as well as seeds, a backup system invulnerable to EMPs – a whole world’s worth of information packed into a pile of corn and peas.

forest of data

Plants could, of course, also be used to seed landscapes of communication, fertile grounds could become a more complex storage system, with different plots to store parts of a larger informational set,

Imagine: farms and other ecosystems as vast organic archives. No more time wasted trying to see the forest from the trees – there could be a whole new layer information in the mix as well. (h/t Geoff Manaugh)

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See more in Weird Science or under Science. March, 2016.