CIP Hosts Climate Change Application Contest ‘Hackathon’

The International Potato Center (CIP) and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) hosted a 36-hour “hackathon” at CIP Headquarters in Lima, Peru to see what useful applications the programmers might fashion out of information CCAFS is continuously collecting.

Using an array of data about everything from seed varieties to future climate variables, eight teams from Colombia, Jamaica and Peru spent a weekend together on the CIP campus, sustained by sandwiches, coffee and creativity.

“It was amazing how all these programmers used the data to play with different platforms,” says Sophia Tejada Carranza, one of the members of the CIP team (the others were Elisa Salas Murrugarra, Mirella Flores Gonzalez and Raul Angel Cordova Solis). “The idea was to have all these different points of view [aimed at] trying to help the farmers.”

The CIP team hacked together an app – Trato Justo – that would help a farmer compute and receive a fair price for his crops based on their quality, regional climate conditions and other factors.

Each team – five from Peru, one each from Colombia and Jamaica – was assigned a mentor to guide it through the creation of a technical solution that could help answer a question a farmer might ask: “How can I increase my crops’ nutrient density?” or “How can I make more money from my crops?”

The data is current and rich, says Elisa Salas Murrugarra, but not usually readily accessible as it was during the hackathon. “We wanted to explore news ways to use and reuse all this information,” she explains.

“We work together [every day], but we haven’t really had the opportunity to try to improve upon our ideas” in the community setting that the hackathon provided, added Raul Angel Cordova.

Cross-fertilization of ideas from one team to the next was a key part of the event. CIP staff were assigned to each team to help facilitate that kind of exchange.

At the conclusion of the event, each team presented its idea toa jury of five specialists in agriculture, climate change and information technologies, who rated the project c based on a number of criteria including user-friendliness and innovation.

Winning first place was Colombia’s Geomelodicos with an app using Global Positioning Satellite data and regionalized climate models to maximize crop yields for farmers in Latin America. It could, however, be applied to other global regions. First prize was USD 3,000 cash. The second-place winner, Via Soluciones, was awarded USD 2,000 cash.

Whether or not a team’s idea won an award, the event generated excitement around a common cause.

“All of us were thinking about how to protect the environment,” says Murrugarra, who says that future hackathons are a distinct possibility after the success of this initial one.

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