The GROW Observatory – a citizen observatory for growers, gardeners, small and family farmers, and space scientists

Grow ObservatoryThe GROW Observatory is a platform and community for large scale citizen science that aims to empower growers with knowledge on sustainable practices and make a vital contribution to global environmental monitoring.

GROW aims to underpin smart and sustainable custodianship of land and soil, whilst meeting the demands of future food production. People taking part will collaborate to create and share information on soil, the land, on crops – what to plant, when to plant them and how to do it. They are able to develop knowledge and skills on soil and growing for food, and take practical steps to preserve the soil for future generations.

GROW also aims to answer a long­standing challenge for space science – by helping to validate the detection of soil moisture from satellites. GROW will look at how this can contribute to services and applications that help forecast and prepare for extreme climate events, such as heat waves and floods.

To achieve this GROW will combine low cost sensing technology combined with citizens’ own devices, a simple soil test, innovative data handling and an online education platform to mobilise large numbers of citizens across Europe.

The outcome will be a hub of open knowledge and data created and maintained by growers that will be of value to the citizens themselves as well as specialist communities in science, policy and industry. In GROW, citizen scientists will generate processed, value added, relevant, decision supporting information for sustainable agriculture, gardening, food democracy and space science.

The GROW Observatory has received funding of €5million over the next three years through the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme. The project starts on 1st November 2016, and will engage growers and citizen scientists in co-creating the experiments from Spring 2017. Further details about the project can be found at www.growobservatory.org.

GROW will offer
Simple, fun experiments to do with friends, family or your community.
Low cost but high power consumer sensing technology, a simple to use soil testing kit, and easy applications, to lower barriers to entry.
A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) to enable scaling of rigorous citizen science.
Engagement underpinned by storytelling and community champions.

Background
The European Commission through Horizon 2020 is supporting the development of an ecosystem of Citizen Observatories. The vision is to create a movement around environmental observations to inform and empower citizens to participate in environmental decision making, leading towards more inclusive, sustainable and smart economic development.

Citizen science has a long history, and increasing availability of smartphones and low-cost sensing technologies has opened up new possibilities for collaborative data collection and sense making.

The world faces the challenge of producing sufficient high-quality food while reducing carbon emissions and preserving the quality of land and soil resources.

A key challenge for environmental monitoring is the ability to measure soil moisture at high spatial resolution over large geographical areas.