Student teams use Analytics, Operations Research to help solve global hunger


Ashley Smith
Public Affairs Coordinator

Student teams use Analytics, Operations Research to help solve global hunger

LAS VEGAS, NV, April 4, 2017 – With the backdrop of a fast-growing growing global population and looming challenges to produce enough food to feed the world, a group of students from the University of Warwick, Nottingham University, and Cardiff University in the United Kingdom have developed a new method to develop better-performing soybean strains that could lead to a world-wide increase in food production.

Their solution was developed as part of the first annual O.R. and Analytics Student Team Competition. This new competition, run by INFORMS, the leading international association for operations research and analytics professionals, and sponsored exclusively this year by Syngenta, challenges students to apply their considerable talent to develop solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing our world today.

Eight teams comprised of both graduate and undergraduate O.R. and analytics students from around the world competed in this year’s inaugural completion. They each used the same data sets and software options to develop solutions to provide unique new analysis of data on soybean varieties bred for commercialization, and propose solutions for developing better performing plants.

“The O.R. and Analytics Student Team Competition not only shines a spotlight on the incredible young talent that is preparing to enter the field of O.R. and Analytics, but provides these student teams the opportunity to hone the skill sets that will place them on the path to success as they embark on their careers,” said Melissa Moore, executive director of INFORMS. “From problem solving and teamwork, to documenting and communicating their findings, the competition prepares students for the demands of a real-world workplace experience.”

"We are honored to have won the first O.R. and Analytics Student Team Competition," said Peter Riley, student team leader. "Not only did we have the chance to test our skills against brilliant students from around the world, but we were able to do so in way that could help make a lasting difference for countless people. It makes for a truly rewarding and fulfilling experience, and we look forward to building on what we've learned and accomplished as we move forward in our studies and careers."

The winning team was announced at the 2017 INFORMS Business Analytics Conference, in Las Vegas, NV, following a final oral presentation by each finalist team. Prior to the conference finalists were selected by a panel of industry and academic experts based on each teams’ use of the full analytics process, from framing the problem to methodology selection, data use, model building, and quantitative analysis.

Syngenta, one of the foremost seed biotech companies in the world, provided generous funding to the 2017 competition, as well as the competition question. The company was the winner of the 2015 INFORMS Franz Edelman Award for Achievement in Operations Research and the Management Sciences and continues to support research initiatives in analytics within the agriculture industry.

“Syngenta is proud to support innovative thinking among emerging young leaders in analytics,” said Joseph Byrum, Ph.D., MBA, PMP, senior R&D strategic marketing executive with Syngenta and Syngenta lead for the Student Competition organizing committee. “This competition served as an excellent entry point for students interested in learning more about how analytics can help solved the challenges facing agriculture today.” 

In addition to the team from the United Kingdom, seven other universities were finalists in the 2017 competition:

  • Drexel University, US
  • National University of Singapore
  • Ozyegin University, Turkey
  • Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium (team 1)
  • Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium (team 2)
  • University of Cincinnati, US
  • University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, US

For more information about the INFORMS O.R. & Analytics Student Team Competition, visit


With more than 12,500 members from around the globe, INFORMS is the leading international association for professionals in operations research and analytics.

INFORMS promotes best practices and advances in operations research, management science, and analytics to improve operational processes, decision-making, and outcomes through an array of highly-cited publications, conferences, competitions, networking communities, and professional development services. Visit or @informs.