The GROW Observatory – an EU-wide citizen science project for growers, gardeners, small-scale farmers, and space scientists.

About the project

The 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, while 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 mobilize 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 €5 million 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. 

GROW will offer

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

IIASA involvement

IIASA is leading the Science work package in the GROW project, which involves building a simple soil testing kit for hobby farmers and urban growers to help them better understand their soil. Part of the project will include building the soil testing kit as well as populating a crop database and validating Sentinel-1 imagery using a low cost soil moisture sensor. IIASA will also take the lead in the research behind linking the soil moisture sensor measurements to advice on watering the crops. All of this will be brought together in a growing advice app that will be developed by IIASA. The app will focus on providing advice based on the soil data, the crop database and the soil-moisture sensor. 


A community of institutes, associations, companies and individuals have come together to create GROW. 

  • University of Dundee
  • International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
  • Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations
  • Met Office
  • Hydrologic Research
  • Starlab
  • FutureEverything
  • European Network for Community-Led Action on Climate Change and Sustainability (ECOLISE)
  • Cultivate
  • CulturePolis
  • Parrot
  • James Hutton Institute
  • Vienna University of Technology
  • Thingful
  • Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia
  • Storythings
  • University of Miskolc
  • The Forest Trust