Journal Article

First experiences with a novel farmer citizen science approach: crowdsourcing participatory variety selection through on-farm triadic comparisons of technologies (TRICOT)

Rapid climatic and socio-economic changes challenge current agricultural R&D capacity. The necessary quantum leap in knowledge generation should build on the innovation capacity of farmers themselves. A novel citizen science methodology, triadic comparisons of technologies or tricot, was implemented in pilot studies in India, East Africa, and Central America. The methodology involves distributing a pool of agricultural technologies in different combinations of three to individual farmers who observe these technologies under farm conditions and compare their performance. Since the combinations of three technologies overlap, statistical methods can piece together the overall performance ranking of the complete pool of technologies. The tricot approach affords wide scaling, as the distribution of trial packages and instruction sessions is relatively easy to execute, farmers do not need to be organized in collaborative groups, and feedback is easy to collect, even by phone. The tricot approach provides interpretable, meaningful results and was widely accepted by farmers. The methodology underwent improvement in data input formats. A number of methodological issues remain: integrating environmental analysis, capturing gender-specific differences, stimulating farmers' motivation, and supporting implementation with an integrated digital platform. Future studies should apply the tricot approach to a wider range of technologies, quantify its potential contribution to climate adaptation, and embed the approach in appropriate institutions and business models, empowering participants and democratizing science.