In just 36 hours, participants in the Digital Ag Hackathon 2021 illustrated some of the ways an industry as old as agriculture can still benefit from modern data-driven technological advances.
From March 5-7, more than 200 students from the world’s top five agricultural schools participated in a series of workshops and networking events before competing for more than $ 8,000 in prizes to help bring their proposals to fruition. innovative.
According to Professor Steven Wolf, Natural Resources and Environment, and Hackathon Faculty Chair, digital agriculture refers to the focus on data in the agriculture and food sectors.
“Agriculture and food are very old industries and so far not particularly data dense,” Wolf said. “Digital agriculture can create complementary resources that can be combined with human, experiential and local knowledge.
The event was hosted by the Cornell Institute for Digital Agriculture, with support from Microsoft, Cargill and other corporate sponsors. In addition to Cornell, visiting students and professors came from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, the University of São Paulo in Brazil, the Agricultural University of China and the University of California at Davis.
More than 30 teams presented their ideas to the judges, who ranged from affiliate professors to professionals and experts from USDA, Microsoft, Infosys and Dairy One.
The judges rated student presentations in four categories: novelty, major societal challenges, market readiness and data. The winner of each category took home $ 1,500, with one team winning the overall prize of $ 2,000.
PicturePerfectFruit and Unstuck Truck both won awards in the “Market Readiness” category. PicturePerfectFruit introduced a smart device for use in grocery stores that predicts when products will be fully ripe for consumption. Unstuck Truck optimizes the loan of tractors in Brazilian sugar estates.
The data award went to Sprout, an app that helps those who live in food deserts start gardening.
Agfrica, another project that uses technology to control locust infestations in Africa, won the “Grand Societal Challenge” award. The innovation has the potential to recover $ 2.5 billion in crop damage and mitigate the environmental and human costs of locust swarms.
In the “New” category, ScrApp won the title. The team created an app that allows farmers who need feed for their animals to participate in a food waste auction system.
The big winner was awarded to the “I like to move it, move it! »Team, consisting of Cornellians Whitman Barrett MPS ’21, Mina Barakatain MPS ’21, Lily Lin ’17 MPS ’21, Zenas Lim MPS ’21, as well as Riske van Vliet of Wageningen and Christopher Prajogo of UC Davis. The team created a model for developing countries to tackle food spoilage during transport.
The virtual event allowed more students outside of Ithaca to attend than ever before. While last year each university hosted five to 10 students at the in-person event, this year more than 20 students from each attended.
“Our team came from all walks of life, and I am grateful for the way we came together to brainstorm and create a solution to such an important problem,” said Yvonne Chan ’21 who worked in the Agfrica team.
Despite the 36-hour delay, the students who attended the event developed lasting friendships.
“My favorite part of the event was working on the project all night and making jokes at 1 a.m. with strangers who became lifelong friends literally overnight,” Shiang said. Wan Chin, a doctorate. candidate in systems engineering and member of the Agfrica team.
As a former winner of the “Grand Societal Challenge” award, Chin’s experience in previous Digital Ag hackathons inspired him to pursue a doctorate. in computer and systems engineering with a specialization in digital agriculture. This year’s event only confirmed his decision.
“My experience has been fantastic,” Chin said. “This hackathon literally changed my life.