COCOON: Sustainable Planter Gives Life To Arid Land

Water-efficient, low-cost and biodegradable, COCOON by Dutch start up The Land Life Company helps trees and plants to survive and thrive with little watering or irrigation – even in arid, desert-like climates. This super sustainable planter technology increases seedling survival rates up to 80-95% and it could have a great effect on rehabilitating degraded land and deforested areas.

So how does it work? Cocoon is made up of four key elements: a water reservoir, mycorrhizal fungi, an evaporation sheet and a tree shelter.

The circular, trough-shaped water reservoir is made from organic waste and pulp. Planted just below the ground’s surface, the trough is filled with water. The tree, which grows through a hole in the centre of the reservoir, absorbs water through bamboo wicks running from the trough to the roots. The reservoir is only filled with water at the time of planting. Once the water is used up, shallow pits in the reservoir act as a micro-catchment, collecting run off when it rains. The reservoir’s cardboard material contains an insect repellent and is covered with a wax coating, protecting the seedling during the first year while it establishes itself. The water reservoir eventually biodegrades, becoming an organic substrate that improves the quality of the soil.

Land Life additionally adds dried Mycorrhizal fungi to the soil around the plant’s roots. Present in 90% of natural forests, these fungi increase the surface area of the tree’s root between 100 to 1,000 times, helping the tree pick up nutrients. Mycorrhizal fungi additionally release enzymes into the soil that dissolve hard-to-capture nutrients, such as organic nitrogen, phosphorus and iron.

A biodegradable evaporation sheet is placed above the reservoir, just below the topsoil. It practically eliminates evaporation of water in the soil and it prevents the growth of weeds near the seedling, which would otherwise compete for water, nutrients and light. As a result, all available resources are directed towards tree establishment.

Finally, a circular shelter placed around the young plant or tree, preventing it from drying out in the wind as well as offering protection against small animals feeding on the plant.

Jurriaan Ruys, founder of Land Life, recently won the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, a prize awarded in the Netherlands for sustainable innovation.  The 500,000 Euro award will be used to launch a several COCOON pilot projects in Mexico and Spain, as well as in California where a new hiking route in the Santa Monica Mountains will be forested with 35,000 new trees.

You can discover more about COCOON technology here.