Incentive challenge offers $7,500 for student ideas to improve dairy data

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Scientists Without Borders and The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science are looking for the best innovative ideas from students around the globe to 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; however, research suggests that milk and other animal-sourced foods provide less than 5 percent of total energy intake in many countries of Sub-Saharan Africa and only 5 - 10 percent 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.

The challenge will run for 60 days, concluding on July 11. 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.

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