Crop choice framework yields Olin Award for Dong and Sundaramoothi

  • February 5, 2018
  • By Kurt Greenbaum
  • 2 minute read

Ling Dong and Durai Sundaramoorthi have won the 2018 Olin Award for research that creates a framework that can help farmers select the proper seed varieties to maximize their crop yields from one season to the next.

The Olin Award, which includes business school recognition and a $10,000 prize, is intended to promote scholarly research that has timely practical applications for complex management problems.

“Soybean farmers are subjected to dozens and dozens of seed varieties,” said Richard J. Mahoney, former CEO of Monsanto and a Distinguished Executive-in-Residence at Olin, who initiated the $10,000 prize. “If you knew you’d have perfect weather, certain varieties would work better than others. A bad guess can be quite punishing.”

Dong, professor of operations and manufacturing management, and Sundaramoorthi, senior lecturer in management, received notice that they had received this year’s award, competing against a score of other papers and finalists, during a brief ceremony in Dean Mark Taylor’s office on Monday.

“Improving crop yield is a critical and necessary component of achieving food security and protecting natural resources and environmental quality for future generations,” Dong and Sundaramoorthi wrote in their award-winning paper, entitled, “Machine Learning Based Simulation and Optimization of Soybean Variety Selection.”

“We formulate a simulation-based optimization problem to determine the optimal soybean-mix to minimize the risk associated with the yield…to make soybean-mix recommendations to the farmers.”

A panel of judges evaluates each paper submitted for consideration for the Olin Award. After reviewing the entries, one judge wrote, “It is directly applicable to business results and is something that every farmer that raises soybeans can benefit from regardless of their size—scale independent.”

Wrote another: “Within the narrow application this would seem to have great potential to produce meaningful benefits.”

The research pair will be formally recognized at a luncheon yet to be scheduled, where they will have the opportunity to present their research.

About the Author

Kurt Greenbaum

Kurt Greenbaum

As communications director for WashU Olin Business School, my job is to find and share great stories about our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. I've worked for the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management as communications director and as a journalist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sun-Sentinel in South Florida and the Chicago Tribune.

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