Global climate change is projected to have a significant impact on food production around the world. Extreme weather, flooding, droughts and other environmental factors can destroy food crops and make distribution more difficult, driving up prices and leaving people hungry or malnourished. Understanding more about how climate change is affecting our nation’s food supply can help mitigate the impact and ensure that America’s food system remains strong and healthy.
Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Microsoft announced the winners of its Innovation Challenge to address food resiliency. Originally announced in July 2015 in partnership with Microsoft, the USDA Innovation Challenge allowed entrants three months to develop and publish new applications and tools that can analyze multiple sources of information about the nation’s food supply. This included key USDA data sets that are now hosted on Microsoft Azure, Microsoft’s cloud-computing platform.
It’s the first time that key USDA datasets have been made available via the cloud, allowing contestants to process very high fidelity and complex models quickly in order to deliver near real-time forecasting directly to remote users—such as farmers, agriculture businesses and consumers—on their laptops, tablets or mobile phones.
To showcase how USDA datasets could be used, Microsoft Research’s Lucas Joppa and USDA collaborated to create the Farm Data Dashboard—a tool allowing users to visualize USDA datasets. In July, Lucas gave a demonstration of the Dashboard at the 2015 meeting of the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) in San Francisco.
Microsoft is a committed partner to the U.S. government in empowering open data initiatives and driving innovation to help prevent and combat climate change. This Innovation Challenge supports the White House Climate Data Initiative’s goals of preparedness for and resilience to climate change impacts by improving the U.S. food system.
Congratulations to all the challenge winners!