As of 2017, around 45000 farmers around the world are taking on the role of citizen scientists in crowdsourcing trials through our Seeds for Needs Initiative:
"Farmers act as local scientists ... testing, observing, comparing different varieties, trying new farming techniques, and experimenting with different crop rotations to see what works for them – in terms of yield and also ... resilience, nutrition, taste and resistance to pests and diseases. This is science for society – not just science for publication."
Ann Tutwiler, Director General, Bioversity International
From the fields of Bihar, India.
Each farmer receives a package of three different varieties. The farmer has to note which of the three is best and which worst on a list of characteristics that they develop together with the researchers. The varieties are drawn from a pool of several varieties, so while one farmer receives A, B and C, another receives A, B and D and so on.
Even though no farmer compared A and D directly, statistical methods can reveal whether A or D is better. Additional variables, such as whether a farmer has access to irrigation, or the altitude of the plot, can also be examined to see whether they affect the performance of the varieties.
An additional benefit is that the varieties are grown in the farmers' fields rather than a trial plot, allowing a greater number of farmers to take part, and to capture other data such as performance at different altitudes or in varying climatic conditions.
"We adapt our statistics to work with what the farmers are able to observe, rather than the other way round," Jacob van Etten, Bioversity International scientist who developed ClimMob with colleagues.
The online platform and mobile app are up and running for anyone to use, with a full set of explanatory videos (in English and Spanish) showing how to use it.
Looking ahead, ClimMob can be used to gather big data on farmers' varietal preferences, and to share that information with relevant actors to create a 2-sided business platform allowing for small quantities of a diverse selection of planting materials to be marketed to targeted consumers.
Part of the crowdsourcing approach in Ethiopia includes extension workers using mobile phones to communicate farmers' feedback to scientists. Above, a farmer receives his phone as part of the project.
Bioversity International has helped install ‘climate buttons’ in trial plots in Bihar, India. This simple, low-cost technology, allows scientists to collect data to share with farmers about temperature and humidity.
Kidane, Y.G., et al (2017) Genome wide association study to identify the genetic base of smallholder farmer preferences of Durum wheat traits. Frontiers in Plant Science.
Beza E, et al. (2017) What are the prospects for citizen science in agriculture? Evidence from three continents on motivation and mobile telephone use of resource-poor farmers. PLOS ONE 12(5): e0175700
Steinke, J., van Etten, J. (2017) Gamification of farmer-participatory priority setting in plant breeding: Design and validation of “AgroDuos”. Journal of Crop Improvement. 356-378.
Van Etten J, et al. (2016) First experiences with a novel farmer citizen science approach: crowdsourcing participatory variety selection through on-farm triadic comparisons of technologies (tricot). Experimental Agriculture, 1-22