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Visualising soil moisture data for the GROW Observatory

As the GROW Observatory project comes to an end, we reflect on one of our most interesting pieces of work in the project.

Visualising soil moisture data for the GROW Observatory

October 2019 saw the end of the three year funding period for the GROW Observatory. This was an ambitious project that FutureEverything was involved in, alongside 17 other partners across Europe.

The overarching mission of the project was rooted in developing a better understanding of the land we grow food on across Europe, in order to inform more sustainable growing practices in a changing climate and contribute to vital environmental monitoring.

The project set up a citizens’ observatory to crowdsource data about soil moisture from thousands of sensors distributed to communities of growers around Europe.

A soil sensor in the the ground

FutureEverything contributed their expertise to various strands of work but one of the most interesting was working with the renowned data visualiser Moritz Stefaner to produce a visualisation that brought to life the soil moisture data that was collected across Europe.

Groups of soil sensors were placed in the ground at various sites, in gridded formations. By gathering ‘point data’ from individual sensors, it was possible for soil scientists from the University of Miskolc in Hungary to extrapolate readings between sensors to create soil moisture maps for continuous areas of land. Such maps are of use to farmers because they could help them better respond to the needs of their crops.

Moritz Stefaner worked with the data to produce an engaging and dynamic visualisation of the soil moisture maps. The video below shows the locations of sensors on the land and, above that, a blue map of soil moisture levels across that piece of land. 

A moving image showing the rotation of the map visualisation from all angles

In the next clip, the soil moisture levels can be seen changing over time and other readings from the sensors (light and temperature) can be viewed in the graphs on the right. It’s also possible to click a particular sensor and isolate its readings in the graph.

A moving image showing the map visualisation data changing over time

We enjoyed working on this visualisation because of the challenge of taking complex scientific data and using good design to present it in a format that is visually engaging and easy to digest.

View the visualisation at soilmoisturemaps.growobservatory.org