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There are many applications for artificial intelligence, from facial and speech recognition to game theory and strategic planning, but can AI be used to help wipe out world hunger?

Syngenta and the AI for Good Foundation launched the Syngenta AI Challenge calling for programmers to utilize machine learning for improved agricultural sustainability. A $7,500 prize is attached to the challenge.

“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, senior 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.”

Competitors will develop a model that can be used to analyze large amounts of seed data, ultimately leading to improvements in the world’s ability to grow more food in the face of climate change without using more resources. The point, Syngenta contends, is to make crops more efficient.

The entrants will receive datasets that include seed genetic information, as well as soil, weather, and climate data. Their work, which should include a documented methodology, will be evaluated on the rigor and validity of the processes used to determine which variety or varieties should be chosen for planting.

There are three prizes – a $7,500 first prize, a $5,000 runner-up prize, and a $2,500 third-place prize.

Entries must be submitted by June 1, and finalists will be announced July 14. Entrants must be over 18 years old.

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

Competition information sessions will be held at several major universities between February and June. Federal University of São Carlos and the University of São Paulo will hold sessions Feb. 3, the University of Chicago will offer a session the first week of February, and Jožef Stefan Institute will hold a session Feb. 10. New York University will provide a session during the second week of February and Carnegie Mellon University will hold a session Feb. 13.

You can find out more about the challenge here.

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