The Analytics Society of The Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences (INFORMS) and Syngenta 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. A second- and third-place winner was also selected.

Although the titles of winning entries are in terms of research wording, the winning entries have practical implications for the future of farming. “Hierarchy modeling of soybean variety yield and decision making for future planting plan,” which modeled a system for predicting soybean seed variety selection was the winning award entry. The winning team is sharing a prize of $5,000.

“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 analytics 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 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.