The University of Chicago Innovation Fund has been kind to the Computation Institute. One year ago, Parallel.works, led by CI Senior Fellow Mike Wilde, received funding from the UChicago-backed initiative to support entrepreneurship on campus. Last summer, the Array of Things project kept the streak alive, receiving $150,000 to begin manufacturing its sensor nodes. But for the fall round of the Innovation Fund, we doubled down with two winning startups from CI researchers: Navipoint Genomics and Praedictus Climate Solutions.
In both cases, the companies build upon established CI projects, finding a commercial angle to deepen impact and improve sustainability. Navipoint, led by Paul Davé, Ravi Madduri, Dina Sulakhe, and Alex Rodriguez, expands the cloud-based genomic analysis capabilities of Globus Genomics to clinical testing. Praedictus, led by Joshua Elliott, David Kelly, and Ian Foster, seeks to apply climate and agriculture modeling techniques developed at the Center for Robust Decision Making on Climate and Energy Policy (RDCEP) to applications for financial and insurance markets, as well as farms, governments, and other organizations.
Praedictus Climate Solutions also seeks to expand tools designed for researchers to new audiences. With RDCEP, Elliott, Kelly, and Foster have developed several projects that make it easier for using climate data and simulation results to drive computational forecasts of agriculture. For example, Elliott has simulated how a “Dust Bowl”-level drought would affect worldwide crop production, prices, and food supply.
The new startup will create versions of these tools and forecasts for commodities markets, which trade on the price of agricultural crops such as wheat, corn, and soybeans. Currently, commodities traders base their decisions on mostly qualitative reports on weather and other relevant information, but Elliott believes that his software technology could introduce more quantitative forecasts for investors. Similar reports might also improve forecasting and planning for food and farm service companies, governments and NGOs.
“We’re going to leverage multiple terabytes of forecasts from weather organizations around the world,” said Elliott, a CI Fellow, “using them to run our agricultural models and produce real-time data products for the industry.”