Design Thinking for Hack4Rice 2019 - International Rice Research Institute

“Stack Overflow” for Agriculture Bags First Place at Hack4Rice 2019, a Hackathon Sponsored by On-Off Group.

Hack4Rice Champions: Team Blu: Julius Petre, Lorenzo Cruz, Joel Eya, Jehan Punzalan, with the event organizers: Marko Kärkkäinen, Jack Lagare (from left to right)

Manila, Philippines – The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) along with its technical partner Amazon Web Services (AWS), organized the Hack4Rice 2019 last August 30 to September 1. Hack4Rice is a software/hardware hackathon focused mainly on solutions related to rice science. Held at the IRRI Headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna, the theme for this year’s hackathon is “Advancing Rice Research Through Tech and Innovation,” which aimed to bring people with diverse backgrounds together and nurture a community of collaboration and innovation.

During the hackathon, the participants had the opportunity to interact with IRRI staff involved in rice research and operations, external partners, and so much more who were able to provide valuable insights about rice research in general as well as perceived pain points that the hackathon hoped to help alleviate. Aside from that, they got to experience the idyllic scenery of Los Baños, wonderful food, and the peace and quiet an escape from the urban jungles brings.

The winners for this year’s Hack4Rice hackathon are Joel Eya, Jehan Punzalan, Lorenzo Cruz, and Julius Petre who are graduates from TUP Manila and St. Dominic College of Asia, respectively. Known as Team Blu, the team created a platform called Saka.PH for farmers to access information for free even through SMS and feature phones. It also includes a web portal that collects and interprets SMS messages sent by farmers so that the data can be used by NGOs, government, and private companies to help them decide on how to address any pressing issues. According to Joel Eya, their vision is for their platform to become the StackOverflow for agriculture.

Team Pilapil landed second place with a mobile app which serves as a career guide to high school students who are about to enter college. CroppyNet, on the other hand, won third with their creation of a better and inclusive agricultural marketplace by allowing interaction among suppliers and consumers of agricultural products through SMS, calls, USSD, and connected devices in the cloud.

A special award was also given to the top-performing team who took on an IRRI-sponsored challenge on phenotype prediction. The team in question who won was Humaygosh who worked on an artificial intelligence platform where crop breeders can use tools upload and visualize data, run machine learning algorithms, and collaborate with different domain experts to solve challenging problems in the field.

One of the media partners of Hack4Rice is Ambidextr, a content marketing and events management company focused on serving tech companies in Asia Pacific.

“Farmers don’t have a lot of access to information due to the fact that they live far from the urban community. The platform Team Blu created gave farmers and other stakeholders in the agricultural value chain much more comprehensive access to pressing issues regarding rice supply,” said Sofia Galve, a co-founder of Ambidextr.

Through Hack4Rice 2019, the opportunity to expand the reach of the participants became available as they got to interact with people coming from different fields not only from the same team as theirs but with other participants, and stakeholders as well. This provided a nurturing environment for empowering each one as they continue to help make a positive impact in rice research through tech and innovation not only within the confines of Hack4Rice but even beyond that.

Our team, lead by our Design Thinking Facilitator, Leo Lallana, is proud to have held a workshop for the participants of this event.

With the interest that Hack4Rice achieved both within IRRI and outside, the organizers are already in the process of making plans for the next hackathon which they plan to be bigger and better.


The International Rice Research Institute is dedicated to abolishing poverty and hunger among people and populations that depend on rice-based agri-food systems. Through our work and partnerships, we aim to improve the health and welfare of rice farmers and consumers; promote environmental sustainability in a world challenged by climate change, and support the empowerment of women and the youth in the rice industry.

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