Designer Sonja Dallyn turns ecofertilizer into aha moments

Insight is the most important factor of an interesting exhibition, says Dallyn, having discovered her passion for the potential of materials
Sonja DAllyn
I find it really fruitful to combine different kinds of fields and multidisciplinary teams, says Dallyn.

Last May, Sonja Dallyn received an interesting email: a research team developing eco fertilizer called ‘putretti’ was looking for a design student to join their team. 

‘They needed an exhibition assistant for the Cooler Planet exhibition on climate change solutions. I had presented my own work at the exhibition the previous year, and I thought that my expertise would be useful to them’, Dallyn recalls. 

After getting the job, Dallyn started her work by having a long discussion with researcher Hanna Vanhanen. Putretti is made from compost and ash, but Dallyn was more interested in the impact rather than the process.  

‘That’s the first thing people often think about at an exhibition: what does this thing do, what benefits does it have and why it is important? That was the starting point for the entire exhibition.’ 

Infografiikka Putretti-lannoitteen energiankulutuksesta
Preliminary calculations indicate that the climate impact of Putretti is 88% lower than that of artificial fertiliser. Infographics: Federico Simeoni

Sapling in the spotlight 

The idea behind Putretti is to boost forest growth and increase carbon sinks without consuming new resources by using a fertilizer that recycles existing nutrients back to nature. At the exhibition, this cycle and growth are represented by a pine sapling with a spotlight trained on it, drawing in people’s gaze. 

‘A successful exhibition feature always has to have one showstopper. You have to present the core information in a clear and concise way and package your research data into visual examples and paths that people can easily understand’, says Sonja Dallyn, mentioning that her recent favourite exhibition is by Näytös21 in the centre of Helsinki. 

‘It was a great combination of garments and video, and the elements picked out from the designers’ collections led people from one place to another. Figuring out the plus sides of everything being online due to the pandemic, as well as taking the exhibition-goers "gaze" into account were the strong points of the exhibition. The exhibition’s advertisement posters shot for social media highlighted the fact that this year’s online exhibition was open to everyone, no matter where you are.’  

Alongside doing exhibition design, Dallyn is finishing her bachelor's degree in design. Laughing, she recounts that her studies have ranged from ceramics to glass and new biomaterials.  

‘I find it really fruitful to combine different kinds of fields and multidisciplinary teams. The work of a designer can also help to ensure that scientific discovery gets shared outside the scientific community and becomes available to the general public. I would love it if my work helped people to have an insight of how much unused potential we have in the side streams of production and how important it is to return all that back into nature.’ 


Kuva männyntaimesta
The idea behind Putretti is to boost forest growth and increase carbon sinks without consuming new resources. Photo: Anne Kinnunen

How do you turn 19th century recycling idea into a modern ecofertilizer? Read Putretti's story!

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Researchers develop the perfect recycled fertilizer for forests -- saves 88% of energy normally used but still not legal (external link)

Finnish forests are typically nourished with fertilisers containing energy-intensive nitrogen and phosphorous mined in Morocco. Researchers have now developed an ecological alternative with ingredients sourced from a waste processing plant. It is good for forests and the environment – but legislation has to be changed first.

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Resource Wisdom - Designs for a Cooler Planet 2021
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