Crowdfunding campaign for three unique Wageningen projects

Press release

Crowdfunding campaign for three unique Wageningen projects

Published on
January 25, 2016

A glimpse into a mysterious underground world, safe tomatoes grown in Martian soil and a mosquito radar app: all three are new crowdfunding projects initiated by researchers at Wageningen UR. These research projects aim to find solutions to social problems and challenges, but are not eligible for conventional funding. The new crowdfunding platform launched by the University Fund Wageningen hopes to find people who are willing to support these projects in the opening round.

Interested sponsors can use the crowdfunding platform to indicate the project to which they would like to donate. All donations starting of five euros or more are welcome. Each project has devised its own form of quid pro quo, which ranges from a thank-you card to a laboratory tour for those who have given large donations. The three projects hope to reach their targets before 1 May 2016. The University Fund Wageningen has been accredited as a Public Benefit Organisation by the Dutch tax authorities. 

An overview of the three projects can be found below..

Are tomatoes grown in Martial soil safe to eat?

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DLast year, Wageningen researcher Wieger Wamelink harvested the first radishes, peas, tomatoes and rye grown in imitation Martian and lunar soil developed by NASA. Now, however, the ecologist is questioning whether these plants and fruits are safe to eat. This is an important question, given that Martian and lunar soils contain high concentrations of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and arsenic. Whether the plants contain any trace of these poisonous substances is as yet unknown.

If the fruits and vegetables are indeed safe to eat, it would bring us one step closer to making the permanent or semi-permanent move to Mars or the moon. Various organisations, such as NASA, Elon Musk and Mars One, are interested in bringing the first people to Mars in the next ten to fifteen years. A safe return trip and stay on the moon is expected within the next five years. Travellers will need plenty of food to sustain them on their long journey. And what could be better than growing your own space food?

The target amount is set at 25,000 euros.

A glimpse into a mysterious underground world

Springtail Sinella curviseta. Photo: Wim van Egmond
Springtail Sinella curviseta. Photo: Wim van Egmond

We may not be aware of it, but in the dark world beneath our feet there is a wealth of tiny animals, plants, fungi and microbes. Soil-dwelling organisms, many of them small and slow-moving, lead a hidden life underground. However, a time-lapse video is able to reveal the bustling yet mysterious life of these creatures and the way they interact with life above ground.

Soil biologist Gerlinde De Deyn hopes to uncover the secret world beneath our feet, which is important to our food production, with the help of colleagues Ingrid Lubbers and Jan-Willem van Groenigen and photographer Wim van Egmond. They plan to develop a construction to photograph the unexposed soil profile while the plants continue to grow in the light on the surface above. Time-lapse images not only make soil processes visible, they also provide us with insights into the root system of plants and individual microorganisms. Some 3,000 high-resolution photographs are needed to produce a two-minute film clip. Their previous time-lapse video (made using a basic construction) was called Bioturbation - worms at work and received 10,000 views.

The target amount is set at 10,000 euros.

Mosquito radar app

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Mosquitoes are associated with itchy, sleepless nights. But in which situations and to what extent do these little creatures cause a nuisance? And is climate change set to change this? The public can help to answer these questions by using a special mosquito app that is to be developed to pass on observations and complaints about mosquitoes.

Users can use the app to report observations, submit photos for identification purposes and track mosquito activity in the Netherlands. Entomologist Sander Koenraadt and biologist Arnold van Vliet also plan to install mosquito traps in areas with high or low mosquito activity. This will give them a reliable overview of the relationship between the weather and mosquito activity. These insights become even more significant as the risk of an influx of exotic  mosquitoes and tropical disease outbreaks begins to rise. The mosquito radar platform aims to connect scientific knowledge with societal questions.

The target amount is set at 25,000 euros.