Application of gaming technology for improving global land cover

The Earth Observation System (EOS) group has developed "Cropland Capture," an online game that engages citizen scientists as data gatherers in global land cover research. The Cropland Capture game was listed among the top 10 education games of 2013.

Crop capture © S. Fritz | IIASA

Crop capture

There is no accurate map showing where all cropland in the world is located. There are, however, satellites, but leading suppliers of land-cover data have large areas of disagreement regarding what is cropland and what is not.

Cropland Capture is a new game for tablet, mobile phone, and desktop computer that engages citizen scientists as data gatherers in global land cover research. Cropland "capturers" decide "yes" or "no" as to whether the images they see are cropland, and results are aggregated, thereby helping researchers accurately identify cropland around the world. 

It is important to know where people are farming the land to prevent such practices as land-grabbing and also to calculate how much land is available for growing food, as the world population grows. 

The data collected through the game will help IIASA researchers improve maps of global land cover in the future. To date almost 3 million samples have been collected from just under 3,000 players.  

"Cropland capture" has received a fair bit of media attention. IIASA researchers Steffen Fritz and Tobias Sturn from the Vienna University of Technology spoke to Vienna radio show FM4 about the game. It was covered by National Public Radio, and by the London-based Observer newspaper (see Multimedia).  


Technical University, Vienna, Austria.

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Last edited: 22 May 2014


Steffen Fritz

EOS Center Head and Deputy Program Director

Ecosystems Services and Management

T +43(0) 2236 807 353

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International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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