Xiaocheng Li, Huaiyang Zhong, and Associate Professors David Lobell and Stefano Ermon from Stanford University have won the inaugural Syngenta Crop Challenge in Analytics. The Challenge was put together by Syngenta and the Analytics Society of The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) to find a model that would allow growers to predict which varieties of seed to plant in the upcoming season. The team was awarded $5,000 for their hierarchy modeling system of soybean variety yield and decision making plan.
“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.”
This inaugural competition was designed to bring innovation to meet the challenges of global food security by involving experts in 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. 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.
Syngenta proudly supported the competition by donating prize money from their own 2015 Franz Edelman Award to this challenge. The commitment promises the challenge will run for the next four years.
“Syngenta is a great example of a company using operations research to better both its own performance as well as to help better society,” said Melissa Moore, executive director of INFORMS. “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. 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 revealed in May. Submissions will be due in January of 2017.