Required USDA Datasets

To participate in this challenge you must create and submit a working, interactive application that integrates one or more of the required USDA datasets. (Please review the official rules for full details.) 

USDA datasets include information gathered from NASS and ERS and include assets such as:

  • NASS Quickstats API – The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) provides direct access to a database containing official published aggregate estimates related to U.S. agricultural production. It includes hundreds of sample surveys covering virtually every aspect of U.S. agriculture and providing state and county-level aggregates. APIs are available for this dataset.
  • ERS ARMS Farm Financial and Crop Production Practices - The field-level phase collects information on production practices and costs (such as fertilizer, pesticide, labor, tillage, and seed) for target commodities. The farm-level phase collects financial information for farm businesses and a variety of financial and demographic information (such as age, education, occupation, off-farm income) for farm operators and their households. The survey collects information from 48 states. It is designed to provide representative data of the continental United States and to support state-level estimates for 15 key agricultural states. APIs are available for this dataset.
  • NASS CropScape API The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) offers a CropScape API that provides direct access to a raster image dataset containing an agricultural-specific land cover classification published once annually at the end of growing season. Data is only offered at original data resolution of 30 to 56m. APIs are available for this dataset.
  • NASS VegScape API - The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) offers the VegScape API that provides direct access to a raster image dataset containing the crop condition vegetation NDVI, published on biweekly timescales throughout the year. Original data resolution is 250m but data can be retrieved at any resolution desired by the user. APIs are available for this dataset.
To easily access the data via Azure, visit the Farm Data Dashboard 

The Farm Data Dashboard is a Microsoft Azure reporting service that offers a simple interface providing an instant overview across several complex datasets on farms and crops. Microsoft’s Farm Data Dashboard is one of several ways that Microsoft cloud products and machine learning capabilities are making the USDA’s data accessible to external developers to help them build applications and services that strengthen and streamline the nation’s food systems.


Support & Documentation

Documentation for each dataset can be found at you have questions about the data, the competition, etc. please post them to the competition discussion board.


Additional Resources


Azure Resources


Getting Started with an Idea

Interested in the challenge, but not sure how to start? Try thinking about how you can help farmers, researchers, and consumers answer questions such as:

  • How much food do we create every year and how is it distributed?
  • Where is food produced and what is the process by which consumers are fed?
  • How have our food preferences changed through time?
  • Where does our food come from?
  • What varieties of crops are being planted and what is doing well in different areas?
  • Is there a disparity between production and purchasing in local growing environments?


Requirements for Bonus Categories

Best Student-made App Award

The Best Student-made App Award will be awarded to the best app created by one or more student developers. All team members must meet the basic requirements in Section 3 of the rules and:

  • be currently enrolled in at least nine credits or three courses, or the equivalent at the time of entry (or must have been enrolled in such credits or courses within the past three months); OR
  • have graduated in the three months prior to the date of entry from either a secondary school or functional equivalent, or an accredited post-secondary institution (e.g., university, community college, technical college).

Winners of the Best Student-made App Award are eligible to win other prizes, provided they meet any applicable Prize-specific eligibility and category requirements.


Best Visualization in Time or Space Award

To be eligible for the Best Visualization in Time or Space Award, a submission must meet all of the Submission Requirements described in Section 4 of the rules, and the requirements of one of the following sub-categories:

  1. Best Data Visualization of Required Data Over Time - The Application includes a visualization tool that allows users to view either: (a) trends through time for multiple variables for the same location, or (b) the same variable(s) across a spatial extent (the entire US, or a region). Makers are encouraged to combine the USDA data with other data.
  2. Best Map Overlay - The NASS cropscape and vegscape are mapped at the county level. The Application includes map overlays at the county or state level, and conducts analyses of these map overlays. For example, the analysis could show the number of pixels of corn planted on different soil types in Nebraska, or the distribution of distance between cornfields and bioenergy plants in the Midwest.
  3. Best App Including Crowdsourced Data - The Application includes a real-time component by integrating the ability to capture and integrate crowdsourced data in addition to USDA data.


Best Open Source Application Award

To be eligible for the Best Open Source Application Award, you must make your submitted application code available to the public at the time of entry under one of the approved open source licenses listed at:


More Questions? 

For questions about USDA Innovation Challenge, email, or post them to the Discussion Board.