Syngenta and the Analytics Society of The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®) named Xiaocheng Li, Huaiyang Zhong, and Associate Professors David Lobell and Stefano Ermon, a team from Stanford University, as the winners of the inaugural Syngenta Crop Challenge in Analytics.
The team was awarded a $5,000 prize for their entry, “Hierarchy modeling of soybean variety yield and decision making for future planting plan,” which modeled a system for predicting soybean seed variety selection.
“It has been a wonderful experience working with Syngenta on this project, and we are excited about the impact our work can have on improving crop yields and addressing food security challenges,” said Xiaocheng Li. “Operations research and advanced analytics can contribute to variety development and evaluation, reducing costs and improved efficiency. Extracting useful insights from massive, unstructured datasets informed our findings and proves to us there is a lot of potential for modern operations research and computer science techniques in agriculture.”
The Challenge tasked participants to develop a model that predicts the seed varieties farmers should plant next season to maximize yield. The inaugural competition aimed to address the challenge of global food security by fueling innovation among experts applying advanced analytics in biochemistry and agriculture.
“Global food security is one of the greatest challenges facing the next generation, and there is a significant need to engage a broader talent base into agriculture,” said Joseph Byrum, Syngenta head of soybean seeds product development and lead for the Syngenta Crop Challenge in Analytics committee. “This competition clearly demonstrated that people outside and adjacent to the industry can make noteworthy contributions.”
The finalists made their presentations on April 11, 2016, at the INFORMS Analytics Conference in Orlando, Fla. INFORMS is the leading international association for professionals in analytics and operations research. Programs were evaluated based on the rigor and validity of the process used to determine seed varieties, the quality of the proposed solution and the finalists' ability to clearly articulate the solution and its methodology.
The runner up, “Decision assist tool for seed variety selection to provide best yield in known soil and uncertain future weather conditions” (authored by Nataraju Vusirikala, Mehul Bansal, Prathap Siva Kishore Kommi) received a $2,500 prize; and the third place entry, “Balancing weather risk and crop yield for soybean variety selection” (authored by Bhupesh Shetty, Ling Tong, Samuel Burer), received a $1,000 prize.
“The submissions from the Syngenta Crop Challenge in Analytics represent best in class science,” Byrum said. “What is striking is the overall professionalism, quality, and effort that the finalists put into the presentations. The teams were clearly committed and had a deep connection to the challenge.”
Syngenta donated the prize money from its 2015 Franz Edelman Award win in support of a commitment to run the Syngenta Crop Challenge for the next four years.
“In 2015 Syngenta won the Franz Edelman award for using operations research and analytics to make better breeding decisions to reduce the time and cost required to develop crops with high productivity,” said Melissa Moore, executive director of INFORMS. “Their efforts, including the Crop Challenge in Analytics, are putting them at the forefront of utilizing operations research to transform the agriculture industry.”
Next year’s Crop Challenge will be announced in May with submissions due in January 2017. Check out Syngenta Crop Challenge for more details.