This $398,838 “CyberSEES: Type 1: Fostering Non-Expert Creation of Sustainable Polycultures through Crowdsourced Data Synthesis” grant was awarded by the Div. of Computing and Communications Foundations of the National Science Foundation. The official record of the award can be found here.
This project integrates research in computing and sustainability science with the goal of enabling a new approach to sustainable food security. The PIs propose to combine cyber-human systems and crowdsourcing research with the science of agroecology with two main research goals: 1) to develop an understanding of how online design tools may contribute to sustainability through enhanced local food production, and 2) to utilize the population of a plant species database as an instance of a class of problems amenable to intelligent crowdsourcing, and pioneer new knowledge in crowdsourcing optimization. As part of this project, the research team will design, build, deploy, and evaluate the Sustainable Polyculture Composer, an online software tool to aid in the design of small-scale plant-based agricultural ecosystems (e.g., backyard food forests).
Tools That Promote Sustainability
Long-term food security is central to sustainability. US food supply chains contribute to global change and are vulnerable to its impacts. Large numbers of small-scale, sustainable, local food production systems could help ensure food security in the face of global change, and could help reduce the environmental impacts of the US food supply. Unfortunately, many efforts at local food production (e.g., backyard gardens) require significant inputs such as water and fertilizer. Effective tools and techniques to encourage novices to begin growing their own food in sustainable ways are lacking. The work will contribute to long-term food security and offer lessons, concepts, methods, and software tools that may be transferable to other sustainability challenges. In addition, the computing research will provide an example that can be generalized to other efforts to more effectively integrate knowledge that is distributed across many people.