HUMUS sapiens: open soil research
Birth of the HUMUS SAPIENS
In September 2017 an international and interdisciplinary crowd of
curious minds gathered in a beautiful valley in the Swiss mountains: The
Klöntal Biohack Retreat
. Maya Minder and
invited interesting people from several European and Asian
countries, to share their curiosity and common interest in the life
sciences: together we created a place where Taiwanese bioartists,
Swedish hardware designers, Indonesian architects and swiss biochemists
- to name a few examples - converged to exchange ideas, develop projects
and tinker with biology. Four intense days of exploring nature, sharing
experiences, recipes, food, microbes, tools, etc.
One of the topics was: soil. Julian brought an old-school microscope and started to compare soil from his garden with samples we collected in the mountains. Amongst other things, the videos on this website were generated here. In the following days many different people used the microscope, went moss-hunting, tinkered with electronics and discussed about science, soil and society.
In January 2018 – during the Hackteria Futures Meeting in Zürich – we finally sat together again, made plans for a long-term collaboration on the topic of «open soil research» and planned this crowdfunding-campaign to kick-off our initiative.
About the open soil research events
04.05.2018 - 06.05.2018 Hackteria soil retreat
About 10 km outside of Schaffhausen (Switzerland), nested between the
hills and woods just below 1000m of altitude - lies a comfortable little
hut commonly known as
Randelab. In the
beginning of May, this was the setting for a special kind of
gathering: the «Hackteria soil retreat» where scientists, biohackers,
artists, makers, educators, ecologists and farmers came together to work
on DIY methodologies and develop workshop concepts on the topic of soil
Special Guests: Lucy Patterson & Urs Gaudenz .
After a few intense days at Randelab some of the participants travelled to other locations in Europe to continue their work and share the inspirations from the retreat.
20.07.2018 - 22.07.2018 mikroBIOMIK soil retreat
About 30 km from Munich city-center, in the middle of pristine woods
and right next to the river Isar, lies the hermitage
‘zum Schindergraben’, commonly known as Projekt Draussen (
From the 20th to the 22nd of July the surrounding woods and waterways as
well as the house itself became the setting for the «mikroBIOMIK soil
We gathered a colorful mix of experts from different disciplines, curious gardeners, skilled hobby microscopists and passionate artists. The event was flexibly structured (as a barcamp/unconference) to address as many questions and approaches as possible and to develop the program together with the participants. There were many discussions and networking sessions, but also a lot has happened in practice: excursions, microscopy, composting, electronic crafts, comic drawing, yoga, a jazz concert,...
If you want to get your hands dirty and learn more about soil ecology, send us an email and ask for our next event: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Some of the questions we would like to ask:
1) What is humus?
The word originally just meant ‘earth’ and is related to homo (“human being”). This beautiful term alllows many different interpretations...
2) What is the difference between conventional and biological farmed soil?
Although there have been numerous studies and comparisons of soil
health on conventional and organic farms, their methods often focus on
chemical composition and are not easily accessible by interested
individuals. Also, scientists and farmers are now getting more aware
that microbial communities are the central players for soil health.
An interesting publication on the topic is found here .
3) How can we measure soil health with low-cost and open-source technology?
Humidity and soil respiration has been measured with simple self-made tools and microbial diversity can be estimated with the help of microscopy. Hackers and tinkerers all around the world have been working on soil ecology for many years. We will start to collect these ideas and use them as a basis for further experiments and protocol development.
4) How does microbial diversity influence plant growth?
Healthy soil has a high diversity of microbial and invertebrate (e.g. earthworm) activity. It is not very well understood how these organisms influence plant growth and the nutritional quality of the resulting crops. We do not expect to answer these questions within the scope of this project but we might be able do develop new strategies and tools to catalyse further research.
5) Can we measure the impact of using chemicals (e.g. glyphosate) on our soil?
The widespread use of glyphosate/roundup and other chemicals in agriculture is under fierce debate at the moment. Is there a way for us to constructively contribute to the science behind the politics by providing an easier access to the study of soil ecology?
6) How can we expand and share this knowledge efficiently?
Open access publication, wikis, and workshops are an established and successful way of spreading knowledge and experience. But how do we reach people who rarely use the Internet?
Results and documentation
We are dedicated to OPEN SCIENCE - all results of the project will be published here:
Supporters and backers
We would like to thank our supporters and backers, who made this
Greg Gage, Verena Friedrich, Regeg Gnuga, Tony Stamm, Špela Petrič, Musa Saglam, Jelly Pin, Agnieszka Pokrywka, Moritz Chollet, Susanne Artmeier, Elodie Pong, Franz Krähenbühl, Anna Cholinska, Bruno Blume, Andreas Losch, Salome Kuratli, Andrew Paterson, Vittorio Milone, Renate Riedner, Georg Ratjen, Takemura Masato, Tuomo Tammenpää, Gisle Frøysland, Oliver Jaeggi, Chris Obrist, Bettina Liebl, Samuel Flach, Rüdiger Trojok, Eugenio Battaglia, Vanessa Lorenzo, Anne Bergner, Andreas Rudolf, Andreas Rudolf, Bjoern Hogg, Manuel Di Cerbo, Tobias Ziltener, Roman Lehner, Chris Vernon, Martin Laarmann, Til Kreuels, Flo D, Rolf Mahnke, Josephine Blersch, Lucy Patterson, Jenny Ludwig, Oliver Walkhoff, Patrick Raithofer, Stefan Deuber, Salome Kuratli, Daniel Reichmuth, Bruce Lee, Janne Korhonen, Robin Bischoff, Urs Gaudenz, Margit Utzmann, Servando Barreiro, Bruce Lee, Mindaugas Gapsevicius, Vanessa Lorenzo, Karl Rellensmann, Jenny Ludwig, Oliver Jaeggi