With an app for small farmers, Agrolly wins IBM’s Call for Code Global Challenge

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IBM Corp. said today the creators of an application that helps to connect and provide support for small farmers around the world have won the grand prize of its 2020 Call for Code Global Challenge.

Call for Code is an annual contest held by IBM that invites developers to create and deploy applications based on open-source technology that can tackle some of the most pressing challenges in the world.

The Agrolly app was created by a distributed team of developers based in Brazil, India, Mongolia and Taiwan who first met at Pace University in New York City. Tasked with creating a solution that can help communities fight back against climate change and COVID-19, they came up with Agrolly as a way to provide help and support for small farmers in developing nations that are struggling with reduced crop yields as a result of climate change.

Agrolly, which can be downloaded free on Google Play, works by combining weather forecasts from IBM’s The Weather Co. with historical data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to provide customized information for each farmer according to their location, the type of crops they’re growing and their stage of growth. It makes use of IBM’s cloud services and Watson artificial intelligence to “fill information gaps,” enabling farmers to make more educated decisions, obtain financing and improve their economic outcome.

Constellation Research Inc. analyst Holger Mueller said the Call for Code Challenge showcases how technology can be a force for good and a change agent for digital transformation.

“It’s good to see a diverse international team win with an effort that addresses one of the key digital business model drivers, the elimination of the middlemen, in agriculture,” Mueller said. “The open-source model is key as this is probably the best distribution vehicle for these kinds of innovations.”

As the grand prize winner of the 2020 Call for Code Global Challenge, Agrolly’s developers have received $200,000 in prize money, plus support from IBM experts and partners to incubate, test and deploy their app. Meanwhile, The Linux Foundation is helping them to open-source Agrolly so developers across the world can help improve and scale up the technology.

IBM said it saw lots of impressive ideas besides Agrolly. Second place in the challenge went to Business Buddy, an app designed by a team of Australians that helps small businesses hurt by COVID-19 get financial support and other assistance. Its developers received $25,000 in prize money to build out their app.

Third-place Safe Queue also received $25,000. Created by a single developers based in Los Angeles, Safe Queue aims to replace physical lines at shopping centers, small businesses and polling centers with “virtual lines” to enable social distancing. The idea is that people can queue up digitally, while waiting in a physically safe, distanced location, instead of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with others and potentially spreading germs.

SchoolListIt, an application that helps parents to keep their kids on track with their school work while learning remotely, came in fourth, while OffShip, an app that estimates the carbon footprint of products people buy online, finished in fifth place. The designers of those apps were both awarded $10,000.

IBM also announced the theme of its next Call for Code challenge, which aims to tackle racial justice. The call is for developers to come up with open-source software solutions that can combat systemic racism and drive progress in the areas of police and judicial reform and accountability, diverse representation, and policy and legislation reform. IBM said it will reveal more information about the next Call for Code challenge at its All Things Open virtual event on Oct. 19.

Image: IBM

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