US: The US Department of Agriculture announced the winners of its USDA-Microsoft Innovation Challenge to use USDA open data to build online tools that could help strengthen the country’s food resiliency in the face of a changing climate.
Farm Plenty received the grand prize of $25,000. The application allows farmers to see local crop trends, what other famers near them are planting, what crops are becoming popular and how prices have changed so they can plan for the future and make better crop decisions.
The second and third prize went to Green Pastures and What’s Local?. The Green Pastures’ dashboard interface features maps and charts that shows farmers production, food supply, economic demand, livestock, remote sensing and commodity data from sources such as the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the Agricultural Resource Management Survey and the Economic Research Service. On the other hand, What’s Local? uses Census of Agriculture local food system data to visualize agricultural production and resource expenses near U.S. urban areas.
The challenge launched in July 2015 as part of the White House’s Climate Data Initiative. Working with more than 100 years of crop and climate data provided by the USDA through Microsoft Azure’s cloud environment, participants were asked to come up with new applications that farmers, ranchers, agriculture businesses, scientists and producers could use to improve food production.
The agricultural open data was collected from economic reports, farm production surveys, satellite imagery and remote sensors capable of detecting health of crops around the country. Ultimately, the challenge resulted in more than 346 registrants and 33 submissions from around the world. A total of $63,000 in cash and prizes were awarded.
“We are anxious and interested in making sure we use all of the tools available to inform producers as to how best to conduct their operations,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
The applications that open dialogue between farmers and their consumers in nearby cities are of great interest to the USDA. “It connects people to their food supply,” Vilsack said. “It creates that communication that replicates the same thing that farmers markets do.”