The Story of Seanasol

Seanasol Research, CIC operates using “the gateway to collaboration” ideology. We create the niche for space expansion scientists, business leaders, and members of the broader community to drive innovation that improves the quality of life on Earth and builds the infrastructure to future Space settlements.

The Seanasol Initiative

While Seanasol Research, CIC (“the Company”) was registered in England and Wales in September 2019, Emmanuel Gonzalez-Escobar founded the Seanasol Initiative on December 13, 2017. Towards the end of his PhD, he was interested to form a plant science research company, but did not know what to call it. Recalling his experience in science communication, he appreciated the importance of a name and so any progress in establishing the initiative as a representable company kept being delayed.

Emmanuel recalls how we came up with the Seanasol name and how the idea quickly developed after that.

After I finished writing my PhD thesis, I felt a rush to create more. I remember being frustrated and wanting to create that space that wasn’t on the internet yet, but I didn’t have a focus because I didn’t know what I was going to call my project. I recognised it needed to be something new; all the common names that included word plays were taken. I had already struggled to find a name for my blog, Pressure Ink, which I had trademarked in 2018. I decided to sleep on it.

I woke up thinking about the origins of the seed. Strange I thought; I worked on understanding how to maximise the productivity of crops, but what about the seed? To overcome bad germination rates, we simply sow more seeds; increase our chances by using more. I never thought about it, because I had stock to spare, but what if my seed stocks were limited? This is when I identified that our practices could always be improved. I also realised that I wanted to focus this initiative on regenerative agriculture as the gateway to sustainable farming.

I grew up into a family that worked on agricultural land and while that is a challenge of itself, I wanted this initiative to cover a more imaginative approach to farming innovation. I have always had several interests and so I decided to think about how to join everything that I loved into one massive idea. Of course the difficulty of this is that such ideas then become difficult to execute and then we run into the problem of trying to achieve too much with a clear sense of direction. And so, I thought about the skills of my parents and trusted friends as key members of the initiative. From there I went to focus the strategy on plants, space and community.

But I still had a problem with the name. I wanted something short and easy to remember. And yet, bear all the significance that I had placed on strategy and direction of the initiative. And the answer to that was no further than the concept of the seed itself. So, I looked deeper and traced back origins of the seed, beginning with how seeds were first grown. I came across the word “sowen”, the Middle English word for “sow”. So I traced the origins of this word until I found “sēaną”, the Proto-Indo-European (Proto-Germanic) origin for the statement “to sow”.

This was perfect because it not only reflected the action of sowing seeds, but also the borrowed meaning of “sowing ideas”. The letters were easy on the eyes and the “S” gave a strong significance to Science or Space. I tried both, Scientific and Space, and decided that Space captured the essence more. The “E” belonged to “engineering” and the “A” to “agriculture”, and to merge them together I used the “AN” as the first words of “and”. I had “Space, Engineering and Agriculture”.

It wasn’t enough and I knew there was something missing. It wasn’t yet capturing the role that we were going to play in this space, but I knew that I wanted to tackle problems and create solutions. And that thinking led me to realise that “sol”, short for solutions, was the remaining piece left for the name. It also captured the imagery that I was trying to create, as the words “sea” and “sol” (“sol” translates to “sun” in Spanish) gave that environmental element to the name. I also wanted to bring the concept of light and water into the name, because that is what drives photosynthesis in plants and again ties in with our venture into agricultural sustainability. Later, out of demand of my spell-checker to change the word I had written, I found out that the rearranged letters spelt “seasonal”.

When it came to registering the company, we again went back to the basics. We knew that our main interests were in scientific integrity and education, and not profit. The profit for us is the value that we return to our community. This encompasses new knowledge and resources that we bring to those in need, or the support we give by listening to them and addressing their problems in our innovative solutions. We decided to adopt the “Research” name to make sure that our presence reflected our commitment to do research. Being a Community Interest Company, over a traditional limited [commercial] company, also gives us the flexibility to apply for innovation and public grants, own intellectual property, and work for the benefit of the community. We could not achieve this without our private sponsors who donate money for our cause and initiatives, which we invest into community-led projects.

My promise to all of you is that Seanasol Research and the Seanasol Universe is all about evolving and changing through time, and we will continue to bring new ideas to this space.

Why Space and not Earth?

As I have written in my Director’s note to our community, there are several attitudes that our audiences may have when we say we work for the Space exploration and expansion sector. This can range from them finding it exciting and interesting to complete disbelief that we are not focusing on the problems we face today. And everyone is right. Space exploration has its meaning from what we hear in the media that large companies and influential individuals are doing, all the way to the details that are not reported. And here is where the gap exists: it is the difference between the information that is easily accessible worldwide and the information that brings in the significance of space technology for deployment on Earth. It is in the combination of these two spaces where we operate.

To me, Space does not only represent that giant, infinitely expanding bubble that surrounds us, but also all the unknowns of whether life could exist outside our planet. For some of us, space exploration helps answer that question and equally assesses whether we could one day inhabit other planets. I imagine it as living in a small, bedroom size, spherical capsule with a super computer, a few mechanically powered appliances and an exercise machine, like a treadmill, that does not only keep our bodies fit, but can generate electricity to power our devices. To power cities, there would be ways to harness the natural resources on that planet, much like wind turbines.

For these technologies to be built and maintained, humans living in these conditions must be well fed and healthy. And yes, with science, we can make great things like lab-grown foods, but there’s one major aspect of being human that we must not leave behind by moving to another planet. And that is that we evolved as we are today because of an ability in our ancestors to grow crops. And we must not forget the importance of plants. In part, they generate the food that we depend on as a population, but they also generate the oxygen that we breathe. On the other hand, plants provide access to naturally occurring anti-oxidants or medicinal properties. While these may not cure diseases, we have relied on plants to create better medicines as we became exposed to more illnesses. Therefore, fully replacing plants with technology and science is not the answer to establishing a human presence on other planets. It might be a way to sustain us after the initial introduction, but we must learn to build that community the same way we built those on Earth. In this regard, the question is not to ask how will plants grow in outer space, but ask how can we ensure plants will grow in space like we expect them to?

As for the trained few that will populate such planets, I think it will be possible for them to adapt. For everyone else, it will take several generations to fully reprogram the human body and its requirements for surviving in such conditions, and while I don’t doubt the capabilities of our bodies, success might be in the hundreds (of candidates) within the next 100 years. What we need are technologies that facilitate the transition into other planets, not for individuals, but populations.

Seanasol Research Today

When Seanasol Research was formed we had a very different market focus. We were entirely focused on Space, Plants, and Community. This was good to create a niche, but it also limited us to several opportunities where our skills could have been used. And so the original hesitation to focus too broadly had begun to show, as our public facing image only captured a fraction of what we wanted to achieve and restricted us to evolve as a Company in strategy and innovation. We began the first major overhaul in 2019 as the registration documents were being completed. We knew that our original mission to build the infrastructure to Space expansion, would not be changed, but we needed a way to justify this if we wanted to be a Community Interest Company. And so, we went back to the basics of what community meant and we decided to focus on education, collaboration, and research.

Since 2020, we have adopted an Earth-first business model, which means that innovations tailored for Space settlements must first need to be built for applications on Earth. This ensures that we assess challenges in a way that solutions benefit communities on Earth, and progressively build the infrastructure to communities in Space. And to do this, we decided to shift our attention to building collaborative networks and expand into other industries, such as healthcare. There are now three times more avenues to support that our original mission had, and places us in the unique position as one of the few Space advocacy companies that operates under a multidisciplinary leadership.

Later in 2020, we created the foundation to the Academy, which is our education segment. This is a space to engage with students and professionals who need extra help in tuition or gain specific skills to help them achieve more. And these are not services, but rather classes to help individuals be more confident in the way they showcase their work and present themselves. There were plans to create more community spaces, like a forum or a member’s only area, but we found that these would restrict traffic coming to our website and even filter information we were creating for the community. We have since scrapped both ideas.

In 2021, we continued to adapt our strategy and changed our original tagline from “Bringing plants to space” to “The gateway of collaboration”. This kept our commitment to work with a network of trusted individuals, but also showed that our skills and interests went beyond plants. We believe our mission is clearer now and have established ourselves in a space that works exclusively for the benefit of our communities on Earth. We are currently carrying out a website-wide overhaul to showcase our new Company strategy. Most recently, we have changed our secondary tagline of “Investing in opportunities of today, for the solutions of tomorrow” to “Driving innovation through the cycle from research to discovery and application”.

We already have a massive project planned for 2022, which will document everything that has been contributed by the Seanasol Universe or created by our Company members, network and community, to build the Readmy Platform. The Readmy Platform will act as a community wiki and be a depository of all the information that we have learned, created, and processed. We hope that it becomes a one-stop destination for our community to Read, Engage, Achieve and Discover.