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Announcing the Winners of a $7,500 Incentive Challenge to Improve Dairy Data

Partners award $7,500 in prizes to student ideas that improve the quality and usefulness of data associated with smallholder farmer dairy production in developing countries.

Published August 15, 2013

NEW YORK, August 15, 2013 — Scientists Without Borders and The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science, both programs of the New York Academy of Sciences, partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to announce the student winners of their $7,500 open innovation challenge seeking ideas to significantly improve the measurement, aggregation, and sharing of data associated with smallholder farmer dairy production in developing countries.

Dairy, especially milk, can play an important role in providing essential nutrients to infants and children; however, dairy comprises less than 10% of total energy intake in many developing countries. This challenge sought to identify innovations that could assist milk producers, researchers, and policymakers in identifying strategies to improve milk production and quality, leading to higher economic returns for farmers, and possibly better nutritional outcomes in producers and consumers.

The two winners, who will share in the $7,500 prize are:

  • First place (receiving $5,625): Veena S. Katikineni, a medical student at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Alejandra Leyton, a masters of public health student at Tulane University, for their proposal, "Dairy Surveillance for the Future." Their solution suggests using community-based "reward circles," in which smallholder farmers form groups to collect and report dairy data via a common questionnaire and shared SMS mobile device. In turn, the data can be analyzed by researchers and policy makers. 
  • Second place (receiving $1,875): Adnan Naim, a PhD student at the Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, for his proposal, "Dairy Calendar." The "Dairy Calendar" uses an intuitive calendar paired with pictures to report details related to the dairy animal, feed, volume of milk, and destination of the product. Data would be uploaded to a cloud storage system and accessible to researchers and policymakers.


The winners were chosen by an independent expert selection panel convened by Scientists Without Borders. The members of the expert panel were Lindsay H. Allen, PhD, RD, of the United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service and the University of California, Davis; Claudia M. Garcia, DVM, of Elanco Animal Health; Sean Paavo Krepp, country director and program manager for AppLab and Community Knowledge Worker Initiatives for the Grameen Foundation Uganda; Dan LeClerc of the Digital Design for Agriculture team at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and Ben Lukuyu, PhD, of the International Livestock Research Institute. The panelists chose the winning solutions from 40 submissions that were generated from 19 countries over 60 days, with over half of the submissions offered by solvers in the developing world.

The judges noted that the winning solutions demonstrated novel incentives for data reporting and sharing across geographies and had the potential to incorporate and piggyback on existing data collection and reporting systems.

Specifically, judges noted that the social support system proposed in the first place solution would not only create positive social pressure to measure and report dairy data, but also build future opportunities for farmers to jointly negotiate with dairy collection points and secondary producers, which could lead to higher incomes for farmers and potentially improved availability of dairy products. Judges felt that the simple pictorial model proposed in the second place solution, could, with technical advice, overcome major barriers among smallholder farmers such as illiteracy and limited uptake.

"Using the creative talents of our solver community, and the capabilities of our partners, Scientists Without Borders bridges disciplinary silos to identify and accelerate path-breaking solutions to global challenges," says Meredith Perry, program manager of Scientists Without Borders. "Working together with The Sackler Institute and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and using our open innovation model, we've surfaced fresh ideas that have the potential to improve human nutrition and smallholder incomes."

The dairy data challenge is the capstone to a project with the Gates Foundation, Scientists Without Borders, and The Sackler Institute to combine an online crowdsourcing activity, high-level stakeholder collaboration, and a student-led incentive challenge to connect potentially path-breaking research, collaborations, and new models in the fields of human, animal, and veterinary sciences that could yield significant impacts in tackling human malnutrition.

"The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science is dedicated to advancing novel solutions to the most critical scientific issues related to malnutrition. Open innovation challenges in nutrition advance inventive ideas to the most vital pathways for nutrition interventions," says Mandana Arabi, MD, PhD, founding executive director of The Sackler Institute. "This challenge will assist us in finding approaches to better identify effective processes in the dairy value chain for smallholder farms and the connections with increasing household food security in the developing world—ultimately, allowing us to better understand how improved dairy value chains could lead to optimal nutritional intake for at-risk populations.

"Veena Katikineni and Alejandra Leyton, the first place winners, note, "The key approach for our proposal was blending the different actors, resources, and incentives available in varied settings. With totally different backgrounds (Biology/Public Health and Economics), we looked at the challenge through different lenses, and were able to design a system where milk producers could share information among one another and with the global community. Creating strong networks of knowledge, instead of relying on individual interactions, allows for quality control, rewards the participants, and reduces the economic costs of the system. SMS text technology was the cherry on top, helping us to reduce errors transmitting the information and make every step more efficient." Katikineni and Leyton will split the $5,625 prize.

In keeping with the partners' missions, and Scientists Without Borders' open platform, the winning solutions are publicly available on the Scientists Without Borders website to encourage further uptake and adaptation. Please visit www.scientistswithoutborders.orgfor more information.

About Scientists Without Borders

Scientists Without Borders, a program of the New York Academy of Sciences, is a web-based collaborative community that generates and advances innovative and effective science and technology-based solutions to the world's challenges. Scientists Without Borders's unique model leverages a free online platform to connect a worldwide group of cross-disciplinary, multi-sector users to develop and openly share concrete and effective solutions to these challenges. To learn more about Scientists Without Borders, visit

About The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science

The New York Academy of Sciences, in partnership with The Mortimer D. Sackler Foundation, Inc., established The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science to create a coordinated effort to support and disseminate nutrition science research. The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science is dedicated to advancing nutrition science research and knowledge, mobilizing communities, and translating this work into the field. The Sackler Institute is generating a coordinated network across sectors, disciplines, and geographies that promotes open communication; encourages exchange of information and resources; nurtures the next generation of scientists; and affects community intervention design and public policy changes. Visit us online at

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

About the New York Academy of Sciences

The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization that since 1817 has been committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide. With 22,000 members in 140 countries, the Academy is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. The Academy's core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large. Please visit us online at