And the Winners of the Big Data Innovation Challenge Are...

March 27, 2017

© World Bank

  • Two innovative solutions in the areas of Food Security and Forests and Watersheds have been awarded $10,000 USD.
  • Jiaxuan You, the team leader for Stanford Sustain, won the Food Security category with an innovative solution to predict crop yield using satellite imagery and machine learning; Amit Parashar, the team leader for Water Cloud, won the Forests and Watersheds category for a cloud-based platform to support water resource planning.
  • A total of 189 submissions were received from 45 countries.

Coming to grips with the enormous challenge of climate change will require big decisions with the potential for long-term global impacts. Technological advances in geospatial mapping, digital networks and computing have provided us with a valuable ally – global data.

To harness its power, the World Bank launched the Big Data Innovation Challenge last October. It was a global call for data solutions to address increasingly pressing issues surrounding climate resilience in specific sectors: Food Security, Nutrition, Forests and Watersheds.

Individuals, students, entrepreneurs, start-ups, academia, private companies, nonprofits and public sector agencies from member countries of the World Bank Group shared innovative solutions and ideas for tackling real-world, actionable climate challenges. 

The Challenge was jointly created by the World Bank’s Big Data, Climate Change and Development Economics Data teams in close collaboration with an advisory group that included global experts from the World Economic Forum, NASA, the UN’s Global Pulse, the US State Department, and the World Food Program. Winners and finalists were selected through a multi-round evaluation process that involved close to 40 judges, including data scientists and sector specialists.

Given the quality and the quantity of proposals received, it was no easy task for the selection committee to choose the winners and finalists, but now we can finally announce them here.


• The award in the category of Food Security goes to the Stanford Sustain team, for an innovative solution that uses satellite and machine learning to predict crop yield: “The challenge was very exciting for us as it presented us a chance to analyze big data to solve real problems on the ground.” said Jiaxuan from Stanford Sustain. “We believe our Crop Yield Mapping solution will help farmers, organizations and governments make better crop related decisions around planting and food security.”  

• The award in the category of Forests and Watersheds goes to the Water Cloud team, for a cloud-based platform to support water resource planning: “Through such initiatives we are able to raise people’s awareness of the importance of big data and how it can help to build a better big data ecosystem across public and private sectors.” Said Amit Parashar, from Water Cloud.  “Through Water Cloud we want to make sophisticated water modeling more accessible and valuable to Policy Makers.” 


• FluroSat developed a unique crop-health imaging system to be deployed by means of air or space systems (e.g. nanosatellites) that will provide early detection and identification of stress in wheat crops.

• Chennai Flood Management provided an online collaboration platform where citizens, engineers, property developers and government organizations can cooperate to develop coordinated, sustainable solutions to a city's flood challenges.

• The Multi-hydrometeorology-hazard Early Warning and Action System (MAWAS) project team developed an early-warning and watershed-monitoring system to support communities in Indonesia's rural and urban areas.

• Map for Environment have designed maps and mapping tools for monitoring the world's forests and watersheds.

• Geosurvey developed an online platform for crowdsourcing the analysis of geospatial data, including both satellite imagery and pictures taken with handheld devices.

• Cornell University Crop Yield Resilience Research Group proposed a robust predictive system of agricultural production and climate resilience that will harness and synthesize a wealth of global datasets from multiple sources and scales.

• The Banana Network uses artificial intelligence to estimate banana productivity by analyzing weather and climate information. It will help local farmers and producers make smarter investments, market transactions and to take early action to mitigate natural disasters. 

World Bank Group

" The Big Data Innovation Challenge is a unique platform that brings together a highly diverse group of people and asks them to come up with some very innovative ideas, from measuring water quality through mobile apps to analyzing watershed scenarios through complex modeling. In addition, the collaborative design of the program is such that it works to strengthen and sustain peer to peer learning and knowledge sharing across the Bank and with partners. "

Adarsh Desai

Big Data Challenge Program Manager

What’s next for the winners?

The winning ideas will now be integrated into World Bank Group operations, employing them as strategic tools to address real-world climate challenges that are seen as priorities in the World Bank Group’s Climate Change Action Plan and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.