Syngenta and AI for Good Foundation launch new AI Challenge to address world hunger with machine learning

Wisconsin State Farmer


Research Triangle Park, N.C. — 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.

Syngenta and the AI for Good Foundation have partnered to launch the Syngenta AI Challenge.

"This new competition will give entrants the chance to use their talents to take on the extraordinary complexity of seed genetic data," said Joseph Byrum, Ph.D., MBA, PMP and 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."

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 – an important tenet of The Good Growth Plan, Syngenta's global initiative to improve the sustainability of agriculture.

Entrants will be provided datasets 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 artificial intelligence tools such as machine learning and data modeling to the agriculture industry.

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

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

  • Federal University of São Carlos: February 3
  • University of São Paulo: February 3
  • University of Chicago: First week of February
  • Jožef Stefan Institute: February 10
  • New York University: Second week of February
  • Carnegie Mellon University: February 13

To enter the challenge, visit For challenge rules, visit

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

About Syngenta 

Syngenta is a leading agriculture company helping to improve global food security by enabling millions of farmers to make better use of available resources. Through world class science and innovative crop solutions, our 28,000 people in over 90 countries are working to transform how crops are grown. We are committed to rescuing land from degradation, enhancing biodiversity and revitalizing rural communities. To learn more visit and Follow us on Twitter at and

About AI for Good Foundation 

The AI for Good Foundation is a 501(c)3 Public Charity whose aim is to provide the tools, transparency, engagement, vision, and education necessary for Artificial Intelligence technologies to thrive within human societies, both now, and in the future. Their work encompasses the academic and institutional research communities, practitioners in all industries, global and local policy makers, and the interested public, with programs to demystify the impact and potential of Artificial Intelligence, and ensure that a future with increasingly intelligent assistive and automating technologies is a bright one. To learn more, visit