The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) has selected the competition finalists for the Syngenta Crop Challenge, which tasks participants to develop a model that predicts the seed varieties farmers should plant next season to maximize yield.

The competition aims to address the problem of hunger challenges across the world by fueling innovation among experts in the application of advanced analytics in biochemistry and agriculture.

Syngenta, an award winning company for its innovation in plant analytics, is proud to support this competition sponsored by the Analytics Section of INFORMS. Syngenta, winner of the 2015 Franz Edleman Award, donated the prize money in support of this challenge.

The finalists are:

  • Balancing weather risk and crop yield for soybean variety selection, authored by  Bhupesh Shetty, Ling Tong, Samuel Burer
  • Soy variety selection to maximize yield and minimize risk based on neural network prediction and portfolio theory, authored by Yu Zhao, Jingsi Huang, Ming Qin
  • The selection of the best soybean varieties for hedging risk of weather uncertainties-a deep learning and heuristic optimization approach, authored by Mark Rees, Yidong Peng, Jaremy Babila, Mike Lyons, Lily Huang, Yinghan Song, Chun-Yang Wei, Susan Arnot
  • Soybean varieties portfolio optimisation based on yield prediction using weighted histograms, authored by Oskar Marko, Sanja Brdar, Marko Panic, Predrag Lugonja
  • 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
  • Hierarchy modeling of soybean variety yield and decision making for future planting plan, authored by Xiaocheng Li, Hyauyang Zhong, David Lobell, Stefano Ermon

These finalists will make their presentations on April 12, 2016, at the INFORMS Analytics Conference in Orlando, Fla. Programs will be 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 winners will be announced following the presentations. The first place winner of the Syngenta Crop Challenge will be awarded $5,000; the runner up will receive $2,500; and the third place entry will receive $1,000.

“Knowing the world is grappling for new ideas to help alleviate hunger challenges, this competition focuses specifically on using analytics to address that issue. Syngenta is excited to see the finalists’ presentations and learn how the teams propose making crops more efficient for farmers across the U.S. and the world. It’s a great opportunity to illustrate the value that analytics brings to increasing efficiency and productivity,” said Joseph Byrum, Syngenta head of soybean seeds product development and lead for the Syngenta Crop Challenge committee.

Serving on the Syngenta Crop Challenge Prize Committee are:

  • Committee Chair: Robin Lougee, Research Industry Lead, Consumer Products & Agriculture, IBM Research
  • William Beavis, GF Sprague Chair of Population and Quantitative Genetics, Iowa State University
  • Joseph Byrum, Head of soybean seeds product development, Syngenta
  • Arnie Greenland, Decision, Operations & Information Technologies, University of Maryland
  • Claudia Perlich, Chief Scientist, Dstillery (formerly Media6Degrees)
  • Alexander Platt, Center for Computational Genetics and Genomics, Temple University
  • Stein Wallace, Department of Business and Management Science, The Norwegian School of Economics
  • Jim Williams, Principal Consultant, Xpress Optimization at FICO

More details about the Syngenta Crop Challenge competition can be found at