College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Ground-breaking soil project wins European award

A revolutionary soil monitoring project is continuing to flourish after winning a major European award.

The GROW Observatory, which has engaged green-fingered volunteers from across Europe to profile the continent’s ground conditions, was awarded the Land and Soil Management Award at the Forum for the Future of Agriculture’s (FFA) gala dinner in Brussels in April 2019.

The project is a collaboration with 18 partner organisations located throughout Europe, including the University of Edinburgh, and has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

Citizen science

Drew Hemment

Free soil sensors have been distributed to citizen scientists across the continent for the project, forming a comprehensive network stretching from the olive groves of Greece to the orchards of Ireland.

The sensors collect information about the soil in which they are placed, including moisture content, exposure to light and air temperature, which is relayed via Bluetooth to the citizen scientist’s smartphone.

The data is being used to enhance understanding of soil conditions, allowing food producers to adapt their methods to climate change.

Attracting praise

The FFA judges praised it as “the best example for future significant sustainability projects aiming at soil health”. They added that it “represents a smart model enhancing agricultural and environmental conditions, in connection with such crucial factors as water and climate change”, while also praising its potential for replication.

Soil underpins life. Most of us walk on it every day, yet few of us understand it. There is an urgent need to preserve soils, and to increase resilience to a changing climate. The GROW Observatory connects soil to sky, and local communities to global challenges. GROW demonstrates the incredible things that can happen when people come together to make change.

Dr Drew HemmentChancellor's Fellow at the University of Edinburgh and GROW Observatory Principal Investigator

Related links

Learn more about GROW or participate 

Forum for the Future of Agriculture