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Incentive Challenge Offers $7,500 for Student Ideas to Improve Dairy Data

Partners seek the best ideas from students to improve the measurement, aggregation, and sharing of data associated with smallholder farmer dairy production in developing countries.

Published May 13, 2013

NEW YORK, May 13, 2013Scientists Without Borders and The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science, both programs of the New York Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, today announced a $7,500 open innovation challenge seeking innovative ideas from students around the globe to significantly improve the measurement, aggregation, and sharing of data associated with smallholder farmer dairy production in developing countries. Scientists Without Borders  recently outlined the challenges associated with smallholder dairy production in low-resource settings at the G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture, where the organization was selected to present.

Dairy, especially milk, can play an important role in providing essential nutrients; however, research suggests that milk and other animal-sourced foods provide less than 5% of total energy intake in many countries of Sub-Saharan Africa and only 5% to 10% in most other African countries and southern Asia. Most dairy products in these regions are produced by small-scale, family-owned farms (also called smallholder farms).  

While the milk from these farms provides an important source of essential nutrients, only limited and fragmented data is available to the milk producers, researchers, and policymakers about the inputs farmers use, the breed and health of the animals, the quantity and quality of the milk produced, and the details, methods, and conditions under which the milk is consumed, transported, and sold. The absence of comprehensive aggregated and reliable data in this area undermines efforts and innovations that could help smallholder farmers increase the productivity and milk quality of their dairy animals. In turn, greater availability of and demand for dairy products among producers and consumers could lead to higher economic returns to farmers and possibly better nutritional outcomes in consumers.

To address this critical gap in data collection and sharing, Scientists Without Borders has partnered with The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to issue this incentive prize and challenge.  The partners aim to harness the creative insights of student solvers from around the world to help bridge the disciplinary silos between the fields of human nutrition science, animal science, and veterinary science.

Specifically, this challenge seeks bold, innovative, feasible, and scalable ideas to leapfrog existing approaches and significantly improve the collection, reporting, aggregation, and sharing of data associated with dairy production and consumption all along the smallholder dairy production value chain in, but not limited to, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

The challenge will run for 60 days, concluding on July 11, 2013.  Student solvers (from the middle school to post-doctoral level) are invited to submit their ideas via the Scientists Without Borders website ( An independent panel of leading experts will be convened by Scientists Without Borders to select the challenge winners.

"Scientists Without Borders is committed to utilizing innovative approaches to identify and accelerate game-changing solutions to global development challenges, including by connecting the unique and diverse insights of our passionate problem-solvers with the expertise and resources of our strategic partner network to advance impact and scale," says Shaifali Puri, Executive Director of Scientists Without Borders. "This partnership with The Sackler Institute and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation applies our open innovation model to combat human malnutrition while forging collaborations across disciplinary silos."

"The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science is dedicated to addressing the most pressing gaps in research related to the global problem of malnutrition. Interdisciplinary approaches have a great potential for advancing our knowledge of the most effective implementation pathways for nutrition interventions," says Mandana Arabi, founding Executive Director of The Sackler Institute.  "This challenge will help us find methods to better identify bottlenecks in the dairy value chain for smallholder farms and the linkages with improving household food security in the developing world, allowing us to better understand how improved dairy value chains could lead to better nutritional intake in vulnerable populations in the future."

US Chief Technology Officer and Assistant to the President, Todd Park notes, "By liberating data from the vaults of government and the private sector, we can accelerate the use of open agriculture and nutrition data to advance global food security while also fueling the growth of new businesses and jobs."

For further details and information about this challenge, please visit:

About Scientists Without Borders

Scientists Without Borders, a public/private partnership led by 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 most pressing global development 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 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 25,000 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