For this study, D‐Lab worked in connection with partners at the UC Davis United States Agency for International Development’s Horticulture Collaborative Research Support Program (USAID HortCRSP) office, Educational Concerns For Hunger Organization (ECHO) Asia, and Kasetsart University in Thailand. This study designed and prototyped offgrid technologies for recharging zeolite beads, a desiccant for horticultural seed saving, by two primary stakeholders in the Chiang Mai region of Northern Thailand: ECHO Asia’s seed bank in Mae Ai, and smallholder farmers in the Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai regions, the Palaung and Lahu hill tribes.
A feasibility study previously completed by D‐Lab students created the below conceptual problem tree (Figure 2) that illustrates the causes and impacts of farmer‐saved seed loss on regional biodiversity and cultural tradition. The feasibility study indicated that zeolite beads are a promising technology for seed saving, however factors of cost and the need for high‐temperature recharging of the beads may be barriers for use by off‐grid smallholder farmers. In response, this study focused on developing the most relevant and adaptable technology for off‐grid recharging by smallholder farmers in tropical climates.