Seed World

Syngenta and the Analytics Society of INFORMS Announce Finalists For the 2019 Syngenta Crop Challenge in Analytics


Syngenta and the Analytics Society of INFORMS have announced the finalists for the 2019 Syngenta Crop Challenge in Analytics. This year’s class of finalists includes teams from Serbia, Germany, and the United States.

Now in its fourth year, the Crop Challenge is a collaborative effort between Syngenta and the Analytics Society of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), the leading international association for operations research and analytics professionals. The competition gives math and data analytics experts a chance to use their expertise to build predictive models, based on real-world agriculture data, to help scientists build more resilient and higher-yielding seed hybrids and varieties.

The 2019 Syngenta Crop Challenge finalists, as selected by an INFORMS panel of professors and data scientists, are:

  • Engineering meteorological features to select stress tolerant hybrids in maize , Gordan Mimic, Sanja Brdar, Milica Brkic, Marko Panic, Oskar Marko and Vladimir Crnojevic from the BioSense Institute, Serbia
  • Combining expert knowledge and neural networks to model environmental stresses in agriculture , Bogdan Georgiev, Kostadin Cvejoski, Cesar Ojeda, Jannis Schuecker and Anne-Katrin Mahlein from the Fraunhofer Center for Machine Learning, Fraunhofer IAISGermany
  • An ecophysiological Bayesian approach to identify heat and drought tolerant maize hybrids , Konstantin Divilov from Oregon State University, U.S.A.
  • Crop stress classification using deep convolutional neural networks , Saeed Khaki and Zahra Khalilzadeh from Iowa State University, U.S.A.

This year’s Crop Challenge question asked participants to define stress metrics and classify corn hybrids for stress tolerances, in an effort to ultimately develop more resilient seeds and create localized options for regions of the world that are not considered hospitable for growing corn.

“The finalists in this year’s competition were able to approach a complicated issue with insight that only experts in analytics can provide,” says Nicolas Martin, assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Crop Challenge prize committee chair and member of INFORMS. “The panel of judges was impressed by the intuitiveness and creativity of their methods, and recognize the hard work they put into their entries.”

The finalists have been invited to present their submissions during the 2019 INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics & Operations Research in Austin, Texas. They will be evaluated on the quality and clarity of their presentations, and the winners will be announced on April 16, 2019. The first-place winner will receive $5,000; the second-place winner will receive $2,500; and third place will receive $1,000.

“Collaboration with data analytics experts through our partnership with INFORMS is helping us bring new innovation to agriculture,” said Gregory Doonan, head of novel algorithm advancement, Syngenta, and Crop Challenge judge. “With this competition, we’re able to engage with that community to identify new interdisciplinary ways to tackle the challenges of feeding a growing population with limited natural resources.”

Established in 2015, the Syngenta Crop Challenge in Analytics is supported by Syngenta and hosted by the Analytics Society of INFORMS. It was initially funded by prize winnings donated by Syngenta in connection with the company’s 2015 win of the Franz Edelman Award for Achievement in Operations Research and the Management Sciences, an international award that recognizes excellence in the industry.

The challenge aligns with Syngenta’s commitment to make crops more efficient, one of the tenets of The Good Growth Plan, a global initiative to improve the sustainability of agriculture.