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GROW Observatory

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - GROW (GROW Observatory)

Reporting period: 2016-11-01 to 2018-04-30

GROW Observatory: citizen science in action

Urgent action, informed by new information and wisdom, is required to maintain soil as a sustainable resource, balanced against the necessity of maintaining / increasing crop productivity. Good soil management and land use practices are vital for economic growth, sustainable development, food security, biodiversity conservation, climate change adaptation and protecting water resources. Availability of soil moisture data is important for understanding climate and climate change impacts, and for improving weather forecasts, monitoring droughts, predicting floods, assisting crop productivity, detailing water, energy and carbon cycles.

The GROW Observatory is one of 4 projects funded by the European Commission to demonstrate the concept of Citizens’ Observatories in operational conditions. GROW will create a sustainable citizen platform and community to generate, share and utilise information on land, soil and water resource at a resolution not previously considered. The vision is to create a movement around environmental observations, to empower citizens to participate in environmental decision making, to extend and reduce costs in global earth observation activities, and to contribution to innovation in the Digital Single Market

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From its kick off in November 2016, GROW has developed and is refining a framework for Citizens' Observatories, describing principles, concepts and a step by step process. Key dimensions are GROW Missions, coordinated periods of citizen science activity, and GROW Places, focus areas for community building and sensor distribution, delivering a minimum viable, high density distribution of sensors across geographically diverse areas.

A human-centred design approach scoped and delivered pilot Missions in year 1, leading to the launch of 2 full Missions in year 2:
Changing Climate Mission – Deploying GROW’s scientifically validated and quality controlled sensor network in 9 geographically and climatically diverse GROW Places.
Living Soils Mission – Validating and disseminating regenerative growing practices with small scale growers across Europe.

A GROW sensor network has been defined and developed to enable citizens to contribute valuable and validated data at scale across Europe. GROW deploys the entire global stock, 15,000, of the leading consumer soil sensor, FlowerPower, using geographic and scientific criteria, designed for scientific exploitation. Data is relayed using mobile phones linked to the sensors through Bluetooth technology.

The complete data collection chain has been tested, from training to data access for exploitation. This includes user manuals for metadata collection, deployment in representative areas, frequent collection of the data, transmission and storage into the GROW platform.

The physical robustness of the sensors was evaluated by stress testing over winter, the sensor measurement quality was evaluated in lab conditions and against high quality sensors in the field, and an initial comparison with Sentinel-1 has been completed. Data collection protocols and tools, were developed and tested, for the soil sensors and other key soil and land parameters collected through citizen science observations and experiments.

The GROW data platform is built for scalability and extensibility, with new soil sensor types in mind. An ecosystem of services for sensor data collection has been developed, with standards defined, and steps taken integrate to GEOSS. Front end services include the GROW social platform and GROW app.

Information services specified and in development include visualisations of the local climate and soil condition, and a growing advice service built on integrated algorithms and an Edible Plant Database (EPD).

Tailored communication methods and infrastructure include storytelling and monthly themes on the GROW website, and community champions in GROW Places. An original contribution of GROW is the use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to scale rigorous citizen science. These methods enable GROW to build the committed, highly engaged communities in Europe who are active in creating, sharing and utilising observations of land and soil.

The Governance model has been developed to delivery impact and sustainability. Value propositions have been tested, and a business case is in development, to direct concrete steps towards sustainability for GROW over the remainder of the funding period.
GROW Citizens' Observatory Framework – A scalable model for future COs.
The most extensive citizen science activities undertaken in land cover and use and soil conservation, over suitably selected geographical areas, at a scale not previously attempted.
A robust methodology (GROW Places) developed to deliver a minimum viable, high density distribution of sensors across geographically diverse areas.
A Europe-wide soil monitoring system (GROW gridded product) measuring dynamic properties, to provide locally precise soil and land data in map format that can be interrogated as geographic layers or as raw data.
Satellite validation strategy, and method for integration of GROW data with environmental monitoring services, developed and tested.
Tailored information and advice services built on GROW and GEOSS data.
Development and launch of the first international permaculture Citizen Science experiment comparing polyculture with monoculture plantings in small scale growing spaces.
Introduction of MOOCs to Citizens’ Observatories
Artist residency and commission to innovate in first implementation of GROW platform
Commercial CO service partnership and setup, Identification of a data challenge/incubation partner.
6 value propositions identified and assessed for commercial sustainability beyond the grant.
Piloting an impact-oriented and sustainability-minded approach to delivery of Innovation Actions
Scoping a post-funding sustainability pathway.

A replicable, scalable CO platform established able to address future community, policy and science challenges.
An unprecedented network of in-situ land and soil observations exceeding existing national networks in number and density across the continuum of land cover practices.
Calibration of Soil Moisture models for climate modelling and climatology.
Validation of existing Soil Moisture and other soil related physical parameters models (e.g. from Sentinel-1).
Integrating with LUCAS and the Danube database (JRC-EC).
Enhanced soil management and growing practices at small / garden scale through tailored advice, validated methods and innovative technologies.
Growers, scientists and policy makers enabled to see spatial patterns of soil moisture for drought/flooding forecast and precision agriculture.
Small scale growers able to better monitor and characterise land and soil resource.
Citizens and communities able to mobilise around data-driven participatory governance through the GROW website.
Contributing to achieving Sustainable Development Goals 2 (Zero hunger), 13 (Climate action) and 15 (Life on land) through enhanced food, land and soil management and community empowerment.
Introduce EO and open data services to new target audiences in small scale agriculture.
Innovation in the Digital Single Market by piloting new Information services built on GROW and GEOSS data
GROW Observatory strap line
GROW Leaf brand
GROW Farmer and family