Oceania's finest: QUT team's project recognized in UN hackathon

A group of PhD students and data science experts from the QUT Centre for Data Science wins the ‘Best in Oceania’ prize at the United Nations Big Data Hackathon.

The hackathon’s goal challenged research teams to develop new ideas and solutions to help achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs.

The QUT Centre for Data Science team consisted of team co-leaders Adam Banham and Miguel Alonso Canizares Mena and members Xiaoyu Wang and Michelle Apps. After a fast-paced three days working with challenging time-zones in the international competition, the group submitted their project and was recently awarded the best in Oceania prize.

The group decided to take a bite out of the issue of food security, with their project aimed at achieving SDG 1 (Zero Hunger). They explored how food is produced, used for the local economy, and imported and explored to other countries.

As a test case, the team chose to explore Brazil and several of its ports. They scoured through data on the food industry in Brazil, which ports are the go-to spots for cargo vessels, how many vessels enter these ports, and how much total tonnage is potentially entering or exiting a port. Team members used their data and statistics skillsets to pull together from a variety of large datasets, including ship location data and information from the United Nations’ food and agriculture organization (FAOSTAT).

The team found multiple interesting insights including common trade partners and most active trading ports. One key insight was that Brazil produces more exports in protein, carbs, and fat than their population would need. These resources are exported as a major source of income for the country. The group concluded that the greatest risk for food security would arise from trade problems which have the potential to cut income to the country and impede access to food.

The team noted that with more time and resources, future work could turn this data and analysis into a simulation that would show how food is produced, imported, and exported across Brazil. They could provide a visual representation of the findings and helping to promote a better understanding of food security in the country.

The team hopes that their project will promote a healthy understanding of the globalisation of food security for different countries and what potential issues may arise.

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