GROW Observatory

Sustainable practices for food provision for the present and the future.


The Challenge

Tackling the global reduction in soil quality from a citizen perspective.

Our Solution

Gathering collective data on soil, growing food and sustainable practices for adaptation to climate change.

Type of Project

Innovation Action for Societal Challenges in climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials funded by European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme under Grant Agreement 690199.

Project Outputs

Open source soil management technology and citizen-science workshop series.

Current environmental challenges require scientific solutions for adaptation to climate change. Soil is an essential component of our ecosystem, from the micro to the macro. Soil provides a rich environment for the spread of healthy biota; the fertile base for food; a haven for the growth of fungi for decay, and even contains rich nutrients for essential plant growth. The widespread global use of monoculture, artificial fertilisers and pesticides have continuously worsened the quality of our soils worldwide, a serious issue when considering an increasing population and limited availability of space for food production.

The Project

Grow Observatory aimed to create and empower a global network of like-minded citizens to work collectively on issues of climate change. Through citizen empowerment, there is the potential for greater impact on policy; contribution towards climate science and more holistic environmental behaviours. Fab Lab Barcelona contributed towards GROW with the development and testing of open source tools based on the Smart Citizen Kit. This aimed to support citizens across Europe to monitor soil quality. These tools are being tested at a series of workshops with gardening communities hosted at Fab Lab Barcelona and Valldaura Labs.

The technology used in Grow Observatory consists of a series of sensors in which are low-cost and accessible for the wider public. Not only are they accessible to buy, but also accessible for use. Grow Observatory, in partnership with Future Learn, has created a series of free online courses which illustrate and guide citizens through a series of simple soil experiments. Grow Observatory bridges the online-offline boundary to create a sustainable network of databased scientific experiments. Citizens not only develop their personal, nourishing food patches but also contribute towards a much richer insight into a geographical ecology of the region. The data collected contributes towards vital scientific environmental monitoring, which can then be further used to study soil healthy strains which contain crucial biota – the basic building blocks for our complex global ecosystem. As part of the project, Fab Lab Barcelona developed a series of open-source soil measurement sensors built upon the Smart Citizen platform.

Who is it for?

GROW Observatory has accessible information for many people to use – from farmers to roof gardeners.


Anyone plan(e)t-minded and green-fingered who wish to participate and develop a caring community based around food production.


Scientists who are interested in collecting global data which could potentially feed into specialised soil for crop production in a future of uncertainty from climate change.

Land lovers

Encompassing a wide range of people – most of Earth’s inhabitants in fact. If you like food then this project should be of interest to you.

Project Partners