UNL students named USDA-Microsoft Innovation Challenge winners

East Campus pillars at enterance

January 28, 2016

Lincoln, Neb. — University of Nebraska-Lincoln students Matt Pedersen and Fernando Napier, both of Lincoln, have been named winners in the USDA-Microsoft Innovation Challenge. 

USDA-Microsoft Innovation Challenge
UNL students Matt Pedersen (fourth from left) and Fernando Napier (far right) recently won best student-made app, best open source application and an honorable mention in the USDA-Microsoft Innovation Challenge. Also pictured are George Lee (left), first-prize winner for Farm Plenty; Matthew Seibert (second from left), third-prize winner for What’s Local; Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack (third from left); and Ben Wellington (fifth from left), third-prize winner for What's Local. (Credit: Ben Ericson, Microsoft)

They won best student-made app, best open source application and an honorable mention for their farm profit calculator submission. The USDA and Microsoft made the announcement Jan. 27 in Washington. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was on hand to congratulate the winners. 

Pedersen and Napier, studying agronomy and computer programming, respectively, entered the competition with encouragement from Roch Gaussoin, head of the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture. 

"Students must be given every opportunity to expand beyond their research into any applicable venture," Gaussoin said. "Beyond the suggestion and encouragement this was all student driven. I am very proud of the trans-disciplinary effort that resulted in this very positive student outcome."

Pedersen and Napier entered as a student team and submitted an interactive application that gives farmers a tool to understand how to maximize financial efficiency and sustainability for their operation. The app uses open source USDA regional production cost and yield data along with user input values to estimate profit based on current or future grain prices. It gives users a full breakdown of operational costs and gains for a whole operation or on a per-acre basis, starting with average data for their region. See  http://devpost.com/software/forprofitfarming.

A total of $63,000 in cash and prizes were awarded, with winners selected from more than 346 registrants and 33 submissions from around the world.

Fran Benne
Department of Agronomy and Horticulture

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