Apply Now: Build a Digital Tool to Help Farmers Manage Climate Change

Got an idea for a digital tool to help communicate to farmers in the US how they can manage the effects of climate change? Apply to United States Department of Agriculture and Microsoft's Innovation Challenge.

Autor*in Anna Rees, 10.19.15

Got an idea for a digital tool to help communicate to farmers in the US how they can manage the effects of climate change? Apply to United States Department of Agriculture and Microsoft’s Innovation Challenge.

Fluctuations in temperature, weather patterns and rainfall effect agricultural output. The National Climate Assessment group in the US has stated that climate disruptions to agricultural processes in the US have increased over the last 40 years and are forecast to continue this upward climb over the next quarter of a century (their website contains a good breakdown of the various effects of climate change on agriculture). Phenomena like increases in precipitation and extreme weather patterns impact soil quality and can wreak havoc on yields and productivity while scientists predict that global warming will lead to an increase in weeds and pests, which will also impact harvests (it should also be noted that the agricultural industry itself is a big contributor to global CO2 emissions).

Increasingly, the agricultural sector is using data and technological processes (precision agriculture), such as GPS, mapping, drones and satellites, to improve farmwork, help farmers adapt to climate change and minimise the agricultural sector’s impact on the environment.

The United States Department of Agriculture collects and has collected an enormous amount of food supply, economic demand, and remote sensing data but trawling through this info, particularly if you are a time-poor farmer, can be an arduous task.

In light of this, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Microsoft are encouraging doers and makers to come up with digital applications (think apps, open source software and the like) that best help farmers access crucial data about: the food supply coming from farms and ranches and the economics of consumer demand; how yields have changed over time to help them make predictions about future crops; what is growing well in their area and what isn’t; among other topics.

The challenge (which offers cash prizes, including a grand prize of 25,000 USD) calls for individuals and teams to create interactive applications that intuitively and simply convey information derived from one of the USDA’s datasets to allow farmers, consumers, agro enterprises, researchers and scientists to better plan for the effects of climate change on agricultural processes. The application must be designed for use on either a smartphone, tablet, PC or other readily-available hardware (such as wearable technology).

The deadline to submit is Tuesday 27 October and winners will be announced in early December. To find out how to take part, head to the Innovation Challenge’s website and find out more via the video below:

WeFarm: Creating The Internet For People With No Internet

Small-scale famers living in remote rural communities the world over are set to benefit from a SMS application and a peer-to-peer knowledge sharing platform which allows for agricultural information and best practice to be shared, questions to be asked, and solutions to any issues they may encounter to be found.

New Approaches to Farming in the Age of Climate Change

A pre-release event for the upcoming report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has presented a bleak future if inaction is still remains the biggest form of action. A recent seminar held at Humboldt University looked at some of the report's findings and discussed the need to keep agricultural policy one step ahead of the game.