USDA, Microsoft Launch Innovation Challenge to Address Future of Food

USDA, Microsoft Launch Innovation Challenge to Address Future of Food
July 30, 2015

Have an idea that you think can revolutionize our food system? Join the Innovation Challenge.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is partnering with Microsoft to launch the contest, designed to explore how climate change will impact the United States' food system. The goal is to achieve better food resiliency. Entrants are encouraged to develop and publish new applications and tools that can analyze multiple sources of information about our food supply, now hosted on Microsoft's cloud-based computing platform Azure.

"For more than 100 years, USDA has compiled data from economic reports and farm production surveys, and more recently from satellite imagery and remote sensors that can provide information on the health of crops around the country," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a written statement. "Through this partnership with Microsoft, we are now putting that data into the hands of people who can help us derive new insights to address factors that threaten our ability to feed a growing global population. This offers very exciting possibilities, and I look forward to seeing the new tools that contest participants develop."

The challenge offers $60,000 in prizes for applications that make use of the USDA data and provide applicable insights to farmers, agriculture businesses, scientists or consumers. The top prize is $25,000. The deadline for entries is November 20, 2015, giving challenge participants three months to create their applications. Winners will be announced in December 2015.

In recent years, the prevalence and availability of data has drastically increased. Using satellite imagery, remote sensors, surveys, and economic reports, applicants can analyze information that can lead to educated and wide-ranging predictions.

"I am looking forward to discovering what creative ideas the community comes up with through blending together USDA data, novel ways of exploring and analyzing data with access to large scale computing and data analysis in the form of Microsoft's Azure platform," writes Dr. Daron Green, Deputy Managing Director of Microsoft Research. "Microsoft and the USDA seek to catalyze the creativity of others and hope that the challenge will provide a great incentive for developers and researchers interested in data science to put together some great applications helping address the USA's food resiliency needs."

The Innovation Challenge was created in support of the President's Climate Data Initiative, which aims to harness climate data in ways that will increase the resilience of America's food system.