Today, the USDA and Microsoft announced the winners of the Innovation Challenge.
The Innovation Challenge was created in July 2015 to support President Obama’s Climate Data Initiative, which aims to harness climate data to increase the resilience of the American food system and foster innovation which will help prepare communities and businesses across the United States for the impacts of climate change.
In response to the President’s call for “all hands on deck,” the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) partnered with Microsoft to explore the impacts of climate change on the U.S. food system and spur innovation to help increase food resiliency. The challenge invited entrants to develop and publish new applications and tools that analyze multiple sources of information about the nation’s food supply, including key USDA data sets that are now hosted on Microsoft Azure, Microsoft’s cloud-computing platform.
Today, the winners of the challenge received over $60,000 in prizes, including a top prize of $25,000, for applications that make use of USDA data and can provide useful information to farmers, agriculture businesses, and consumers.
The finalists were selected from more than 346 registrants and 33 submissions, each of which made use of the Microsoft Farm Data Dashboard, a Microsoft Azure reporting service that was created for the Innovation Challenge. The dashboard provides an instant overview across complex USDA datasets on farms and crops, helping inform researchers so they are better able to build applications that streamline productivity and strengthen the nation’s food systems.
Award recipients and their projects are listed below.
Farm Plenty | Grand Prize, Open Source Application Award, and Best Visualization in Time or Space Award recipient
Farm Plenty is an easy and innovative way for farmers to explore USDA statistical data about the most important crops grown in their area. The interface of this application shows the farm location on an aerial image; the crops grown within 5 kilometers of the farm are obtained from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) CropScape database. Economic data about these crops through time are extracted from Economic Research Service’ (ERS) and Agricultural Research Management Survey (ARMS) databases to allow a farmer to make informed decisions about crop choice.
Submitted by George Lee
Green Pastures | Second Prize, Open Source Application Award recipient
Green Pastures is a comprehensive dashboard interface that allows a farmer to visualize production, economic, livestock, and commodity data from NASS, ERS, ARMS, and other sources at scales from national to local, including information on farmers’ markets. This rich assortment of graphs and maps allows diverse users to access these data for multiple purposes.
Submitted by Khyati Majmudar
What’s Local | Third Prize recipient
What’s Local provides an analysis of the resources that are required to produce agricultural outputs by using data from the Census of Agriculture as a novel approach for a dialogue between urban population centers to connect with farmers in their area.
Submitted by Benjamin Wellington, Eric Roy, and Matthew Seibert of Landscape Metrics LLC
Farm Profit Calculator | Honorable Mention, Open Source Application Award, and Best Student-Made Award recipient
Farm Profit Calculator is a mobile phone application that gives farmers a way to compare their input costs (fertilizer, seed, fuel, etc.) to regional averages. Students with backgrounds in agronomy, statistics, and computer programing developed this app with hopes of helping farmers find financial efficiencies on their operations and target areas where their costs are above the norm.
Submitted by Fernando Napier and Matt Pedersen
Croptrends | Honorable Mention recipient
Croptrends is a useful tool for viewing spatial and temporal trends in crop production and yield by county for the entire United States by using NASS data.
Submitted by Chaiyawut Lertvichaivoravit and Ta Chiraphadhanakul
VAIS | Popular Choice Award recipient
VAIS is a unique approach to visualize crowdsourced pricing data with the NASS data for the entire United States.
Submitted by Ken Moini
Farmed | Large Organization Recognition Award recipient
Farmed allows farmers to view crop condition in their area by using VegScape data from NASS combined with local weather data.
Submitted by Bryan Tower
—Daron Green, Deputy Managing Director, Microsoft Research
- USDA Press Release: Open Data from USDA, Microsoft Cloud Technology Become Tools to Strengthen Food Supply Through “Innovation Challenge” Winners
- Innovation Challenge for Food Resilience (Azure for Research Award)
- USDA and Microsoft Research Innovation Challenge for food resilience (video)
- USDA Innovation Challenge
- Announcing the Innovation Challenge: using data science to create “food resilience”
- Microsoft Azure for Research
- Microsoft Azure
- President’s Climate Data Initiative