Research project

The GROW Observatory: empowering European food growers to monitor soil moisture

Soil moisture plays a key role in predicting the extreme weather events that are becoming increasingly common in a changing climate. Our vision is supporting a movement of citizens generating, sharing and using information to improve their soil management, and food production.

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Start date

January 2016

Completion date

January 2019



The European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (No 690199)

In a changing climate, changes in soil moisture are affecting food production across Europe. Monitoring soil moisture can help us to better predict, mitigate and adapt to these changes. 

We led a consortium of partners in a large-scale Citizens’ Observatory, that has empowered people to take action on soils and climate across Europe. We provided over 20,000 participants worldwide with online training courses in soil moisture monitoring, placing 6,500 soil moisture sensors in 24 GROW Places across geographic and climatic zones across the European Union. Communities gathered and used the data for themselves to understand and respond to their local environments. This also helped us to ground-truth the next generation of Copernicus satellites, Sentinel-1, to improve the accuracy of predictions on extreme events, such as flood, drought and wildfire as well as develop and test a soil moisture model to support climate change mitigation and adaptation across Europe. 

The project was awarded the ‘Soil and Land Management Award’ (2019) from the British Academy of Soil Science, ‘Project of the year’ (2020) at the Stephen Fry Awards for Excellence in Public Engagement, and our workshop ‘Design for Climate Services: A Co-Design Approach’ received a Top III Award at the Academy for Design Innovation Management Conference 2019 (ADIM2019).


Woods, M., Ajates, R., Gulari, N., Burton, V.J., van der Velden, N.K., Hemment, D. (2019). GROW Observatory: Mission outcomes

KovácsK. Z., Hemment D., Woods M., Velden N. K. van der, Xaver A., Giesen R. H., Burton V. J., Garrett N. L., Zappa L., Long D., Dobos E. and Skalsky R. (2019) “Citizen observatory based soil moisture monitoring – the GROW example”, Hungarian Geographical Bulletin, 68(2), pp. 119-139. doi: 10.15201/hungeobull.68.2.2.

Woods, M., Balestrini, M., Bejtullahu, S., Bocconi, S., Boerwinkel, G., Boonstra, M., ... Seiz, G. (2018). Citizen Sensing: A Toolkit. Making Sense.


Project lead(s)

Professor Mel Woods,

Dr Raquel Ajates Gonzalez

, Andrew Cobley

External team members





Met Office


International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

Permaculture Association Britain

University of Miskolc


The Forest Trust


The James Hutton Institute

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)

Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IaAC)

TU Wien

University of Edinburgh