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Syngenta AI Challenge looks to address world hunger

Competition focuses on using artificial intelligence and machine learning to overcome challenges facing agriculture industry.

Syngenta and the AI for Good Foundation have partnered to launch the Syngenta AI Challenge, a new international competition focused on leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) tools for use in seed breeding. The competition is accepting submissions 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," said Dr. Joseph Byrum, senior research and development (R&D) strategic marketing executive with Syngenta. "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, which is an important tenet of The Good Growth Plan, Syngenta's global initiative to improve the sustainability of agriculture.

Entrants will be provided with data sets 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 $5,000 and the third-place entry $2,500. Entries must be submitted by June 1, 2017, and finalists will be announced July 14, 2017. 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 AI tools such as machine learning and data modeling to the agriculture industry.

"We see ourselves as an R&D company first and foremost," Byrum said. "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."

James Hodson, co-founder and CEO of the AI for Good Foundation, added that if AI "is going to change the world, it had better help us solve some of our most pressing problems. 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, including:

  • Federal University of São Carlos on Feb. 3.
  • University of São Paulo on Feb. 3.
  • University of Chicago in the first week of February.
  • Jožef Stefan Institute on Feb. 10.
  • New York University in the second week of February.
  • Carnegie Mellon University on Feb. 13.

To enter the challenge, visit ideaconnection.com/Syngenta-AI-Challenge. For challenge rules, visit ideaconnection.com/Syngenta-AI-Challenge/rules.php.

To learn more about the role data science is playing in agriculture, read "Feeding the World – With Math" by Joseph Byrum.

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