Seed World

Competition Seeks to Leverage Artificial Intelligence

Blueprint of big idea machine project. All design elements are layered and grouped.

Syngenta and the AI for Good Foundation are launching an international competition focused on leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) tools for use in seed breeding, called the Syngenta AI Challenge. Submissions are now being accepted from applicants who are ready to put their programming skills to the test for the chance to win $7,500.

“This new competition will give entrants the chance to use their talents to take on the extraordinary complexity of seed genetic data,” says Joseph Byrum, Ph.D., Syngenta senior research and development strategic marketing executive. “In the face of a rising global population, we need to grow plants that can adapt and thrive in changing conditions, especially as vital resources like water and land are finite. The Syngenta AI Challenge is about creating models that can help solve this puzzle and ensure world food security.”

The competition challenges participants to develop a model that can be used to analyze large amounts of seed data more effectively, ultimately leading to improvements in the world’s ability to grow more food in the face of changing environments, without using more resources. The premise of the competition underscores Syngenta’s commitment to make crops more efficient.

Entrants will be provided datasets that include seed genetic information as well as soil, weather and climate data. Entries will be evaluated based on the rigor and validity of the process used to determine which variety or varieties are selected for planting and should include a documented methodology. The winner will receive $7,500; the runner-up will receive $5,000; and the third-place entry will receive $2,500. Entries must be submitted by June 1 and finalists will be announced July 14. Contestants must be 18 years or older to participate.

The 2017 Syngenta AI Challenge is the first of two collaborations between Syngenta and the AI for Good Foundation to bring artificial intelligence tools such as machine learning and data modeling to the agriculture industry.

“We see ourselves as a R&D company first and foremost,” Byrum says. “We know the key to success is taking the long view, a long-term commitment to innovation, and we believe artificial intelligence is one of the few tools that can address the complexity of seed breeding.”

“If Artificial Intelligence is going to change the world, it had better help us solve some of our most pressing problems,” adds James Hodson, co-founder and CEO of the AI for Good Foundation. “Few things are more pressing than ensuring we can feed a growing world population sustainably.”

Competition information sessions at several major universities are scheduled to take place from February through June:

– Feb. 3 at Federal University of São Carlos.

– Feb. 3 at University of São Paulo.

– First week of February at the University of Chicago.

– Feb. 10 at Jo≈®ef Stefan Institute.

– Second week of February at New York University.

– Feb. 13 at Carnegie Mellon University.

To enter the challenge, visit