Being a farmer in America is not for the weak of heart. For decades, it has been a game of both chance and experience - making farming a difficult industry to enter. In fact, the number of entry-level farmers has fallen by 30% since 1987 (

For those that do enter this industry, farming is becoming an increasingly data and technology driven activity. Known as “precision farming” or “precision ag,” farmers are now utilizing data from satellites, market reports, weather forecasts, surveys, and sensors that provide on-demand GPS monitoring and mapping tools. (

Still, it’s not enough.

American farmers need more data in order to create a sustainable food system for the United States. They need to analyse the food supply coming from farms and ranches and the economics of consumer demand. They need to know how yields have changed over time so they can prepare for and predict future crops. They need to know what is growing well in their area and what isn’t. Similarly, consumers and researchers want to know where their food is coming from and how we can make US agriculture more sustainable.

The USDA has a tremendous amount of food supply, economic demand, and remote sensing data as part of its Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) and Economic Research Service (ERS), the challenge is to explore how to make this data accessible and provide insights for potential users.

Help create a sustainable, competitive, and healthy US food system. Use USDA data to create working, interactive applications to get farmers the information they need – and help feed America.


This challenge is open to:

  • Individuals (who have reached the age of majority in their jurisdiction of residence at the time of entry)
  • Teams of eligible individuals
  • Organizations (up to 50 employees)
  • Large Organizations (with over 50 employees) may compete only for the non-cash Large Organization Recognition Award.
  • Employees of Large Organizations (with over 50 employees) are eligible as long as they enter the competition independent of their company and meet all other requirements.

Employees of the USDA, Microsoft, ChallengePost and contractors currently under contract work for USDA, Microsoft, or ChallengePost are not eligible. 


What to Create: Submit a working, interactive application that integrates one or more of the required USDA datasets. 

Static data visualizations will not be eligible. Applications must include interactive functionality (e.g. the user can change parameters to update the visualization and/or result).

Eligible Platforms:

  • Smartphone or tablet (iOS, Android, Blackberry, Kindle, Windows 8 Mobile)
  • Web (mobile or desktop)
  • Desktop (Windows PC, Mac Desktop)
  • Software running on other publicly available hardware (including, but not exclusive to, wearable technology, open source hardware, etc.)

Supplemental Material: You must submit a demo video (hosted on YouTube, Vimeo, or Youku) that walks through the main functionality of the application via screencast or video. You must also submit a text description and at least one image/screenshot of your working application.

Testing: You must make your app available for testing by providing a link to access your installation file, an uploaded installation file, a beta distribution build, etc. See full testing access options.

New & Existing Solutions: Apps may be newly created or pre-existing. If the submitted app existed prior to the competition’s submission start date, it must have been updated to integrate the required USDA data during the submission period.

Hackathon Sponsors


$63,000 in prizes

Grand Prize

USD$25,000 cash prize

Second Prize

USD$15,000 cash prize

Third Prize

USD$7,500 cash prize

Honorable Mention (2)

USD$2,000 cash prize

Open Source Applications (3)

USD$2,500 cash prize. To be eligible for the Best Open Source Application Award, the submitter must make their application code available to the public at the time of entry under one of the approved open source licenses listed at: See rules for full requirements.

Best Visualization in Time or Space Award

USD$2,000 cash prize. To be eligible for the Best Visualization in Time or Space Award, a Submission must meet the requirements of one of the following categories: Data Visualization of Required Data Over Time, Map Overlay, App Including Crowdsourced Data. See rules for full requirements.

Best Student-made App

USD$1,500 cash prize. Awarded to the best app created by a one or more student hackers. (All team members must be taking classes at an post-secondary educational institution to qualify, or must have graduated within the last 90 days. See rules for full requirements. Large organizations are not eligible for the Best Student-made App.)

Popular Choice Award

USD$500 cash prize.

Large Organization Recognition Award

Non-cash, recognition only for entrants with more than 50 employees.

Devpost Achievements

Submitting to this hackathon could earn you:

How to enter

  1. Click “Register” to sign up for important challenge communications.
  2. Visit the Resources page for a list of the eligible USDA datasets to get you started.
  3. Create your app!
  4. Shoot your demo video and take screenshots of your functioning app.
  5. Provide a way for us to access your app.
  6. Get started on your draft and submit early!


Dr. Debra Peters

Dr. Debra Peters
Senior Advisor for Earth Observations, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Chief Scientist and Research Scientist, USDA Agricultural Research Service

Vince Breneman

Vince Breneman
Chief of the Research Support Branch at USDA’s Economic Research Service

Rick Mueller

Rick Mueller
Head of NASS’ Spatial Analysis Research Section in Fairfax, Virginia

Lucas Joppa

Lucas Joppa
Environmental Scientist, Microsoft

Daron Green

Daron Green
Deputy Managing Director, Microsoft Research Outreach

Dr. Brian Lutz

Dr. Brian Lutz
Third Generation Farmer, Ray Lutz Farms

Judging Criteria

  • Quality of Idea
    Includes creativity and originality of the idea.
  • Implementation of Idea
    Includes the quality of the design and user experience, as well as the level of analysis difficulty of the required data.
  • Clarity and Accuracy of Solution
    Includes the completeness of the documentation and the accuracy of the data usage.
  • Potential Impact
    Includes the extent to which the application could be useful to researchers, agricultural workers, etc.

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