Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Technological innovations abound at Hack4Rice 2019

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) along with its technical partner Amazon Web Services (AWS), organized Hack4Rice 2019, a software/hardware hackathon focused on technological solutions that can be adapted for rice research. Held at the IRRI Headquarters in Los Ba├▒os, Laguna, the theme for this year’s hackathon is “Advancing Rice Research Through Tech and Innovation” which aimed to bring people with diverse backgrounds together and nurture a community of collaboration and innovation. 

With the idyllic scenery of mountains and rice fields in the background, the participants had the opportunity to interact with IRRI specialists involved in rice research and operations, external partners, and participants from different sectors who were able to provide valuable insights about rice research in general as well as perceived pain points that the hackathon hoped to solve including challenges related to rice research and agriculture in general as well as an IRRI-specific challenge on phenotype prediction.
Hack4Rice 2019 champions with event organizers
Team Blu bagged first place by creating a platform called Saka.PH -- an application that enables farmers to send questions to a centralized knowledge bank and receive answers for free through SMS and feature phones. It also provides stakeholders the necessary data to help them prioritize activities such as capacity building.

Team Pilapil landed second place with a mobile application called Pilapil that serves as a career guide to high school students who are about to enter college. Third place went to team CroppyNet, who created an inclusive agricultural marketplace by allowing interaction among suppliers and consumers of agricultural products through SMS, calls, Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), and connected devices in the cloud.

A special award was given to team Humaygosh who took on an IRRI-sponsored challenge on phenotype prediction. The members worked on an artificial intelligence platform where crop breeders can use tools to upload and visualize data, run machine learning algorithms, and collaborate with different domain experts to solve challenging problems in the field. 

A total of sixty-two participants from different sectors including agriculture, information technology, and computer science joined the event. Of the total number of participants, seventeen were students, including three who are in high school. Majority are from Luzon while a couple of agriculture professors are from Western Visayas. 

The positive reception to Hack4Rice 2019 and the amount of inquiries about the event exhibits the strengthening interest of the public in rice technology. Organizers are set to make plans for a bigger and better hackathon in the coming year. 

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