Hackathon winners pose with a giant check

Hackathon delivers insights to aid local farmers

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

University of Minnesota students spent their weekend crunching numbers in the second annual Analytics for Good Hackathon at the Carlson School of Management to help a Twin Cities nonprofit better serve its mission of expanding market opportunities for small farmers.

The Good Acre works with diverse, independent farmers to distribute healthy produce to clients in the metro area. However, variables throughout the planting and growing seasons often make it difficult for the nonprofit to plan for crop yields.

Hackathon winners pose with a giant check
The first-place team poses with The Good Acre representatives and their $6,000 check after winning the Hackathon. From left to right: David Van Eeckhout, Theresa McCormick, Shubham Garg, '23 MSBA; Priyanka Saraswat, '23 MSBA; Shubham Midha, '23 MSBA; Aditya Tomar, '23 MSBA; and Utsav Ajay, '23 MSBA.

Students competed in a 24-hour Hackathon challenge to analyze data and develop insights to improve the efficiency of The Good Acre’s food security management. Throughout the event, students received mentorship from Carlson School faculty and Best Buy data analytics professionals. At the end of the 24-hour work session, five finalist teams presented their findings in front of the judging panel.

The winning team consisted of all Carlson School students: Utsav Ajay, ‘23 MSBA; Shubham Garg, ‘23 MSBA; Shubham Midha, ‘23 MSBA; Priyanka Saraswat, ‘23 MSBA; and Aditya Tomar, ‘23 MSBA. The team determined the crop fulfillment rate for each farmer and created a dashboard so nonprofit staff could better plan how to meet the weekly demand for different produce items. Saraswat said the dashboard could help The Good Acre better track farmers throughout the year.

“If a producer falls short of that product as per the fulfillment rate, then the producers can be directly contacted based on that metric, and then [The Good Acre] can maybe provide those producers with extra resources,” Saraswat explained.

Theresa McCormick, the executive director of The Good Acre and one of the judges, said she was thoroughly impressed by the quality of the findings turned around in just a day’s work.

“One of the things that stood out for our winner is not only did they take a complex question and make it very easy and digestible through data visualization, they also really thought about the usefulness of making a product deliverable to us as a client,” said McCormick. “We were really blown away by how we could use this tomorrow in our business.”

The first-place team won a $6,000 prize and the second-place team received $3,500. In total, judges awarded $15,000 in prizes during the Hackathon. 

Turnout doubled this year, with more than 100 students across 19 teams participating. Undergraduate and graduate students from the Carlson School, College of Liberal Arts, College of Science & Engineering, and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs were eligible to compete. Throughout the Hackathon, students attended networking events, career development workshops, and a cookie tasting contest.

"It's great to see such a huge response from students who want to get involved in their community by applying their data and business skills to do good", said Aakriti Aneja, '23 MSBA, lead Hackathon organizer. "They're working toward solving real-world problems for a big and immediate impact."

The Carlson School’s Analytics for Good Institute, which aims to harness the power of data to help others, sponsored the event alongside corporate partners 3M and Best Buy. This marked the second year of the Hackathon, which is led by graduate students in the Master of Science in Business Analytics program. For more information, visit the Hackathon website