Innovators find solutions for the future at KAUST

Innovators find solutions for the future at KAUST
Updated 16 September 2019

Innovators find solutions for the future at KAUST

Innovators find solutions for the future at KAUST

Hundreds of developers, designers, programmers and entrepreneurs from around Saudi Arabia came together recently to design next-generation technologies in food, water and energy for implementation in Saudi Arabia’s $500 billion global model for future living NEOM, the event’s challenge partner. 

The JUNCTIONxKAUST hackathon took place Sept. 12-14 on campus at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). The winning team eFarmers will be attending the global Junction hackathon in Helsinki, Finland, taking place in November later this year. 

Out of 1,200 applications, only 200 participants were selected to compete in this year’s hackathon. The attendees were supported by over 25 mentors from the Saudi Data Community, including: Developer Circles Jeddah, GDG Jeddah, Geeks Valley, Udacity and KAUST Core Labs. 

This is the second Junction hackathon hosted by KAUST. Each year, KAUST works with a network of partners to design innovative solutions to shared global challenges. “At KAUST our mission is to create solutions for the future of food, water, energy and the environment,” said Kevin Cullen, vice president for innovation and economic development at KAUST. 

“We do this through advanced research and working with partners to develop new products and technology. This hackathon was an incredible opportunity to partner with NEOM to solve real challenges facing the Kingdom and for students and innovators to work together in creating a shared sustainable future.”

During the hackathon, participants were asked to solve three challenges regarding the future of water, energy, and food technology products and services in NEOM. Mark Tester, head of the future of food sector at NEOM and professor of plant science at KAUST, said: “NEOM is the land of the future. We are looking for the most innovative and cutting-edge solutions to challenges in generating energy, growing food and sourcing water. The Junction hackathon with KAUST showed the unlimited potential of young people from around Saudi Arabia in answering these challenges.”

Technology partners Microsoft and UnitX offered additional technical solutions, including Microsoft’s Azure and UnitX’s Sentient, a cloud-based supercomputing platform. Saleh Al-Zaid, intelligent cloud business group lead at Microsoft, said: “Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Hence, we at Microsoft support innovators and entrepreneurs all over the world to achieve more. This hackathon at KAUST brought top talent from all over Saudi Arabia to put Microsoft technology to the test.”

The winners of JUNCTIONxKAUST included:

•1st place: eFarmers, a sensor technology that accurately detects ground humidity for plants.

•2nd place: Arks, a machine learning technology that detects water leakage in homes.

•3rd place: Nutrax, a food scanning app that accurately identifies all nutritional information.