Skip to content

Resource Library

15 Years of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault

28 February 2023

New seeds are being deposited at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
  • The celebration of new deposits from 20 genebanks, including the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), will see the collection surpass 1.2 million seed samples
  •  Albania, Croatia, Benin and North Macedonia are depositing seeds for the first time.
  •  Albania, Benin, North Macedonia and Mali are depositing seeds thanks to support from the Biodiversity for Opportunities, Livelihoods and Development (BOLD) project, a 10-year effort funded by the Government of Norway and led by the Crop Trust.
  • A new virtual tour allows people around the world to explore the arctic Seed Vault for the first time as it celebrates its 15th anniversary.
  • The Crop Trust’s work to ensure future food security has become increasingly urgent as crises in Ukraine and Yemen reveal the fragility of global food supplies.
  • The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, established and owned by Norway and operated in a partnership between the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food, NordGen (the Nordic countries’ regional genebank) and the Crop Trust, is responsible for safeguarding backups of the world’s crop diversity, securing our future food security.

Longyearbyen, Svalbard, 26 February 2023 – As part of its 15th anniversary celebrations, this week the Svalbard Global Seed Vault welcomes 20 genebank depositors. On 28 February, 19,585 seed samples will enter the Seed Vault, including collections from first-time depositors from Albania, Croatia, North Macedonia, and Benin.

The Seed Vault, set 120 meters inside an Arctic mountainside on remote Spitsbergen Island, will now house over 1.2 million seed samples, making it the world’s largest crop diversity collection in a single location.

The deposit includes 290 samples of maize, wheat and beans from the Institute of Plant Genetic Resources of Albania, and over 1600 samples, including wild relatives (cousins of current food crops) of rice and watermelon, from the Institut d’Economie Rurale in Mali. In addition, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India will deposit 4000 samples, including sorghum, chickpea, and groundnut.

The Seed Vault will also receive its first deposit from the non-governmental organization Fabia CSB Bogdanci in North Macedonia. It includes seed varieties used in celebrated national dishes, such as the ajvarka red pepper variety used to make traditional ajvar, a popular relish.

Four deposits were made possible thanks to support from the Biodiversity for Opportunities, Livelihoods and Development (BOLD) Project, a global 10-year initiative to strengthen global food and nutrition security funded by the Government of Norway and led by the Crop Trust.

Through grants issued as part of the BOLD project, seed collections from almost 30 countries will be supported in regenerating their seeds, thus making safety duplication possible. Importantly, this also means these genebanks have fresh seeds to share with their users -- farmers, breeders, researchers and others. Historically, the Seed Vault's depositors have been international, regional and national genebanks. With this grant, many genebanks managed by communities, universities and NGOs based in low- and middle-income countries now have the opportunity to back up their unique crop diversity.

As part of the 15th anniversary, the Julius Kühn Institute will deposit wild strawberries. The Millennium Seed Bank at Kew Gardens will deposit beets, carrots and bumblebee-friendly clover seed varieties. Once delivered safely to the Seed Vault, the seed samples will join the tens of thousands already stored in the subterranean seed chambers at temperatures of around −18°C.

Entering the Seed Vault, virtually.

To mark its 15th anniversary, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is also opening its doors to the world -- virtually -- by launching a new virtual tour that accompanies the latest deposits.

The global public will now have the opportunity to experience the inside of the remote Seed Vault. They will be able to explore the diversity its seed chambers hold, including boxes of seed samples from all over the planet, from North Korea to India to Peru.

The purpose of the Seed Vault is to back up the crop diversity stored in – and made available by – the world’s genebanks. These collections are essential for researchers and plant breeders who develop new plant varieties crucial for adapting our agriculture to climate change, new pests and diseases, changed production methods or new dietary demands. If the original genebank collections are destroyed or made inaccessible due to war, floods, fires or even a power shortage, the backup seeds in the Seed Vault will prevent invaluable and unique crop biodiversity from being lost forever.

Keeping all the seeds safe requires stringent security, with only a handful of staff members allowed inside the Seed Vault. However, the new interactive virtual tour will provide everyone with the chance to explore the mysterious arctic seed store and learn about the enormous breadth and variety of samples stored there, on which our global future food security rests.

Additional Quotes

Stefan Schmitz, Executive Director of the Crop Trust, said:

“From here in Svalbard, the world looks different. This Seed Vault represents hope, unity and security. In a world where the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, natural catastrophes and conflicts increasingly destabilize our food systems, it has never been more important to prioritize safeguarding these tiny seeds that hold so much potential to adapt our future food to such global threats.”

Sandra Borch, Minister of Agriculture and Food for Norway, said:

“New genebank deposits are vital to preserving the genetic diversity of staple crops and regional seed varieties that small-scale farmers rely on. With this latest deposit, marking the 15th anniversary of the Seed Vault, we will have a safety backup of the world's crop diversity of approximately 1.2 million seeds stored in the vault. The whole of humanity relies on the genetic diversity of crops maintained in the world’s genebanks, and the Seed Vault is the last line of defence against the loss of that diversity.” 

Lise Lykke Steffensen, Executive Director of  NordGen, said:

“The Seed Vault still takes my breath away every time I enter – and not just because of the cold. It protects the foundation of our future food supply. Genebanks are working tirelessly to protect key crops that are increasingly vulnerable, whether it be from natural disasters, conflicts or other challenges. By offering a place where the genebanks can back up their invaluable and unique seed samples, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault creates a higher level of security for the world's agricultural biodiversity and, thereby, our global food security.

Example genebank focused topper

Germany delivers rare seeds to Svalbard Seed Vault as seed collection surpasses 1.2 million
New deposits from 20 genebanks to remote Svalbard Global Seed Vault will see the collection surpass over 1.2 million seed varieties as Seed Vault celebrates 15 years of life

  • The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which is managed by the Crop Trust and its partners NordGen and the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture, is responsible for safeguarding the world’s crop diversity to secure future food security
  • To mark the celebrations, new deposits from 20 genebanks will see the collection surpass over 1.2 million seed varieties
  • Julius Kuhn Institute in Germany delivers wild strawberries to the remote arctic vault
  • Genebanks in Benin, Albania and North Macedonia are depositing seeds for the first time thanks to support from the Biodiversity for Opportunities, Livelihoods and Development (BOLD) Project, a 10-year effort funded by the Government of Norway and led by the Crop Trust.

Notes to editor

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault virtual tour was developed by The Crop Trust, NordGen and the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food with the Virtual Tour Company.

Stefan Schmitz, Executive Director of the Crop Trust and Hannes Dempewolf, Director of External Affairs, Senior Scientist at the Crop Trust are available for interview. A full list of the 20 genebank depositors who are delivering rare seed varieties to Longyearbyen for the the occasion of its 15th anniversary can be found below:

Agricultural University of Tirana [First time depositor, BOLD grantee]


Group of Research, Agricultural Innovation, Biodiversity Management and Action for Sustainable and Equitable Local Development (GRIGADEB)



Plant Gene Resources of Canada


National Plant Genebank, Ministry of Agriculture [First time depositor]


International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)


The Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) [The most diverse deposit, accession wise]


Julius Kühn Institute


The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)


METK (former ECRI)


Institute of Cereal Crop Improvement, Tel Aviv University



Ivory Coast

Institut d'Economie Rurale [BOLD grantee]


The Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen)

The Nordic countries

Fabia CSB Bogdanci [First time depositor, BOLD grantee]


Suceava Genebank ”Mihai Cristea”


National Agricultural and Food Centre


National Agrobiodiversity Center




 John Innes Centre Genetic Resources Unit


Millennium Seed Bank, Kew Garden


Learn more from the Seed Vault official website:

About the Crop Trust

The Crop Trust is an international organization working to conserve crop diversity and thus protect global food and nutrition security. At the core of Crop Trust is an endowment fund dedicated to providing guaranteed long-term financial support to key genebanks worldwide. The Crop Trust supports the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and coordinates large-scale projects worldwide to secure crop diversity and make it available for use, globally forever and for the benefit of everyone. The Crop Trust is recognized as an essential element of the funding strategy of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Learn more at

About the BOLD Project

BOLD (Biodiversity for Opportunities, Livelihoods, and Development) is a 10-year project to strengthen food and nutrition security worldwide by supporting the conservation and use of crop diversity. Led by the Crop Trust, in partnership with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, the BOLD Project is funded by the Norwegian Government and builds upon the work and achievements of the decade-long Crop Wild Relatives Project (2011-2021).

About NordGen

NordGen is the Nordic countries’ genebank and knowledge center for genetic resources. As the operational manager of the Seed Vault, NordGen is responsible for handling the seeds inside the Seed Vault; communicating with genebanks; and maintaining a publicly accessible online database with information on the seed samples stored in the Seed Vault ( Read more about Nordgen at

About the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food

The Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food is the legal and administrative body of the Seed Vault and has the overall responsibility for its management, security and funding. The Ministry has assigned Statsbygg, the key adviser on construction and property to the Norwegian Government to be responsible for the construction and maintenance of the Seed Vault. For more information see

Categories: For The Press, Press Releases, Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Scroll to top