05 September 2016

IIASA researchers
take part in EU citizen science project

IIASA is a partner in the newly launched GROW Observatory – an EU-wide 'citizen science' project for family farmers, gardeners, and growers.

© Vladimir Sazonov | Dreamstime.com

© Vladimir Sazonov | Dreamstime.com

The GROW Observatory is a massive, European-wide project aiming to involve tens of thousands of ‘citizen scientists’ that will empower growers with knowledge on sustainable practices and make a vital contribution to global environmental monitoring. 

IIASA researchers are contributing to the project by building a simple soil testing kit for hobby farmers and urban growers to help them better understand their soil. They will also be populating a crop database and validating satellite imagery using a low cost soil moisture sensor. IIASA scientist Rastislav Skalsky will also be doing the science 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.  

Overall, the goal of the project is to harness citizen scientists to help solve a key challenge for environmental monitoring—the ability to measure soil moisture at high spatial resolution over large geographical areas—while sharing knowledge on growing in different regions. The aim will be to increase small-scale food production and preserve the soil quality for future generations, while improving forecasting of extreme climate events, such as heat waves and floods. 

Led by the University of Dundee and including partners across Europe, the GROW Observatory has received funding of €5 million over the next three years through the European Commission's Horizon 2020 program. The project starts on 1 November 2016, and will engage growers and citizen scientists to help co-create the experiments during the 2017 growing season.  

GROW aims to underpin smart and sustainable custodianship of land and soil, with a view to meeting the future demands of food production. It 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 data can contribute to services and applications that help forecast and prepare for extreme climate events, such as heat waves and floods. 

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme 2014 -2018 under grant agreement No 690199.


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Last edited: 02 September 2016


Linda See

Senior Research Scholar

Ecosystems Services and Management

T +43(0) 2236 807 423

Rastislav Skalsky

Research Scholar

Ecosystems Services and Management

T +43(0) 2236 807 229

GROW Project

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313