A group of engineering and Ivey Business School students will represent Western at a four-day global summit and competition this June, after successfully answering the call to address one of the world’s biggest problems in Western’s World’s Challenge Challenge competition.
Timing, complementary skill sets and a shared interest in sustainability were some of the factors that helped team Agri-Edge develop a precision agricultural system designed to serve the needs of farmers in emerging nations. They will be one of 16 teams from across Canada and around the world participating in the World’s Challenge Challenge Global Final, to be held virtually on June 6 to 9, hosted by Western University.
“We all knew each other already and were looking for a project to work together on where we could all utilize our diverse set of skills when we saw the call for teams to apply to the Challenge. We had the time to put into it and it all worked out so well,” said Agri-Edge team member Waleed Sawan, a third-year software engineering and Ivey Business School student.
“We loved the open-ended nature of the framework of the competition which allowed us to tackle any global problem we wanted. It was really a perfect storm.”
The goal of their project is to decrease the resources needed for crop sustentation in emerging nations, and increase crop yield by leveraging a novel mesh networking algorithm, computer vision, and open-source application programming interfaces (APIs) and hardware.
“We see a real opportunity to help,” said Natalie Connors, a third-year chemical engineering student and also an Agri-Edge team member. “It’s a low-cost solution. We’ve developed the software and an initial prototype and we know what we need to do. We hope to continue working on this project after we graduate.”
Comprised of Sawan and Connors, as well as William Briggs and Edward Zurabov, both third-year software engineering and Ivey Business school students, team Agri-Edge was inspired to develop their solution after witnessing the lack of technology in agriculture during the team members’ previous visits to farms and communities in rural nations.
“The way that agriculture is growing, farmers must take preventative measures with respect to soil degradation and resource conservation. However, with high costs and designs created for North American markets, current implementations in precision agriculture are inaccessible to farmers in emerging nations,” said Connors.
The World’s Challenge Challenge asks students at participating universities from around the world to form diverse teams to propose solutions based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and pitch their ideas to a panel of judges at their own campuses. The winning teams at each university are then invited to participate in a four-day summit hosted by Western, that features keynote speakers, networking and mentoring opportunities, and a final competition with a grand prize of $30,000.
“We are thrilled to be hosting the World’s Challenge Challenge Global Final again this year and looking forward to learning more about the big solutions teams have come up with to make our world a better place,” said Lise Laporte, senior director at Western International. “Every year, I am inspired by the participants and their commitment to being global citizens.”
This year’s World’s Challenge Challenge Global Final will feature three events open to the public: an opening celebration and keynote by Olympic gold medalist Alex Kopacz on June 6, the final competition on June 9, and the awards celebration, also on June 9.
“We are really excited to be representing Western at the Global Final,” said Connors. “We’ve participated in other competitions before, but this one is special because it’s global and there will be teams from around the world.”
The World’s Challenge Challenge was launched at Western in 2013. The competition expanded to other universities, and the first Global Final was held in 2017. This year, 16 teams coming from Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States, will compete in the Global Final for a total prize money of $52,500.
Visit Western International to register for the event.