Protoculture is an exceptionally powerful energy source, derived from a plant called the Flower of Life. A small amount is supposedly more raw energy than a controlled nuclear reaction. Robotech Wars were fought to find and control this important resource.
The Invid were the first to utilize protoculture, somehow using the pollen of the Flower directly to power their civilization. Later, the Tirolian scientist Zor discovered how to refine the pollen of the Flower, allowing other species to make use of the energy. Powered by the near limitless fuel of protoculture, the Tirolians developed robotechnology. With their new technology they conquered many alien civilizations, renaming themselves the Robotech Masters.
Zor became disgusted with his people's misuse of protoculture and robotechnology and decided to protect his people from themselves by taking away their power source, the Protoculture Matrix. The Robotech Masters' only fertile batch of the Flower of Life was kept in a massive starship. Zor stole all his research, the battle fortress itself, and folded into unknown space. The result was disastrous, with everyone aboard killed and the ship crash landing on the planet Earth.
Starting in July of 1999, when the alien ship crashed, humanity quickly reverse-engineered robotechnology. Afraid that the original owners of the battle fortress would come looking for the ship, the United Earth Government rebuilt it as Super Dimension Fortress-1. They were correct, as ten years later the Robotech Masters sent their shock troops, the Zentraedi, to reclaim it, thus starting the First Robotech War.
The Robotech wars
At the end of the First Robotech War, in 2014, the SDF-1 was almost destroyed, its ruined shell embedded in the Earth at a place later called Reflex Point. Desperate to regain their energy source, the Robotech Masters themselves led an assault on Earth. Additionally, they created a clone of Zor, called Zor Prime, to act as a subversive agent among the humans. A perfect copy of the original, Zor Prime had the same thoughts and opinions, and eventually turned against his creators. More importantly, he realized the presence of the Flower of Life would inevitably attract a threat even worse than the Robotech Masters. Attempting to end the danger of protoculture once and for all, Zor Prime exploded the Tirolian Mothership directly above Reflex Point. However, he underestimated the virility of the Flower of Life. Instead of disintegrating the spores, they were blown around the world. By the end of the Second Robotech War in June 2030, Earth had become a massive source of protoculture.
A year later, the worse threat foreseen by Zor Prime arrived—the Invid Invasion had begun. Drawn to the incredible amount of the Flower of Life, the Invid easily overcame the battered human army, conquered the planet, and began harvesting the plant. For the next thirteen years humanity fought a guerrilla war against the Invid on Earth, as the first two attempts by the Robotech Expeditionary Force (REF) failed to liberate the planet. During that time Lieutenant Scott Bernard fell in love with the amnesiatic Ariel, who turns out to be an Invid simulagent and daughter of the Regess, ruler of the Invid. In July of 2044, the main fleet of the the REF arrived to challenge the invaders once and for all. Faced with a Pyrrhic victory, the ominous implications of the REF's new "shadow technology", and a desperate plea from her daughter, the Regess decides to lead the Invid to new worlds. As the Invid leave they take with them all the protoculture on the planet.
The Shadow Chronicles
Following the end of the war with the Invid the REF faced a critical storage of protoculture, made worse by the fact that the SDF-3 and its protoculture matrix was missing. If the SDF-3 could not be found the REF faced the very real possibility of running out completely of its stockpile of protoculture. However, the REF were not the only ones looking for the SDF-3. The Haydonites, a species that despised all that used protoculture also sought the protoculture matrix so they could destroy it.
- The Flower of Life could possibly be native to the Invid's original homeworld, though this has never been confirmed.