Science - January 21, 2016

Crowdfunding platform starts

Koen Guiking

Donating money to Wageningen research projects is possible as of 25 January on

Crowdfunding. Afbeelding: Elveos.

Photo: Elveos

Three project proposals received approval on 18 January from the evaluation commission to raise money online.

The initiators of Muggenradar, Sander Koenraadt and Arnold van Vliet – who regularly ask the crowd to kill and send in mosquitos for research – want to raise 25.000 euro for further development of an app. This should make it easier to collect data and to subsequently inform citizens, conservationists and policymakers on possible mosquito nuisances.

Moon and Mars soils contain a lot of heavy metals
Wieger Wamelink

Also Wieger Wamelink, who grows vegetables on imitated moon and Mars soils, hopes to raise 25.000 euro. He wants to try and increase the yield and together with food safety institute Rikilt he wants to research if the tomatoes, radishes, leeks, lettuce leaves, and rye grown on space soils are safely edible. ‘Moon and Mars soils contain a lot of heavy metals’, Wamelink says. He wants to research if plants absorb these. If this is the case he wants to perform a follow-up project on how to counter the absorption of heavy metals by plants. ‘This is possible by improving pH levels of soil, so that heavy metals do not become soluable, or by cleaning the ground.’ On earth it is possible to achieve both by first growing other plants, before the vegetable crops are planted.

Life begins in the ground
Gerlinde De Deyn

Gerlinde De Deyn, Ingrid Lubbers and Jan-Willem van Groenigen are asking ‘the crowd’ for 10.000 euro so that, together with the artist and photographer Wim van Egmond, they can make movies on the interaction of life above and underground. De Deyn and Van Egmond previously made a time-lapse video of worms that digest leaves, now the duo, with colleagues, also want to show how bacteria and fungi disperse in the soil. ‘Life begins in the ground’, says De Deyn. Plant growth above ground can only take place because microorganisms and worms in the soil convert organic material to nutrients for plants, she explains. ‘If you show that process sped up, by making thousands of photos in a period of up to four months and playing it in two minutes, then people better understand how important that soil is.’ Those movies also yield scientific information, for example on how fast those processes are, or which behaviour benthos shows under different circumstances. The challenge for shooting this is that the footage need to be made simultaneously above ground, in the light, as below ground, in the dark.

These three first projects will be on the starting from Monday 25 January. Later on, more projects will follow. For each project the researchers are allowed to spend a maximum of three months to raise money, says Arianne van Ballegooij of the University fund of Wageningen. There is a minimum of €5 per donation and no maximum. Even if the target amount is not raised, the researchers can at least fund part of their research with the money. And if more money is raised, then there is room for more research. Van Ballegooij: ‘The agreement was made that the scientists then have to state what they will use the extra money for.’