Knight Vision Food Waste Pitch

 

Project Title: “SmartFridge: Tackling food waste one fridge at a time”

Project Leaders: Arjan Abar, Aaron Brodkey, Bella Isaacs

Requested Amount of Funding: $15,000

Expected Amount of Time to Complete Project: 6 months

Description of SmartFridge:

SmartFridge is a multipurpose iPhone, Android, and tablet application that synthesizes information from one’s grocery receipt into recipes in order to reduce food waste and save users money. The application has two main features: a timetable of expiration dates for products and a list of recipes based on the grocery receipt.

The timetable feature places all products from a user’s receipt in chronological order with products that expire the soonest at the top of the list. Currently, packaged products are the only products with explicit expiration dates, and even those dates may be inconsistent with their true expiration date (NRDC). In order to develop this app with the most up-to-date information on expiration dates of different foods, we would look to gather information from sites like StillTasty and EatByDate, as well as guidelines for expiration dates by the USDA. These databases will allow us to estimate when products like fruits and vegetables should be used and whether or not packaged products with expiration dates can last beyond the date labeled.

With this information, SmartFridge will create a timetable every time a user scans the barcode of their grocery receipt. By having this information readily available, people will be more likely to cook with these products and not let them go to waste. Overall, this will help people visualize what foods need to be cooked sooner rather than later. While this information is essential, it does not directly help people turn these expiring foods into food that is ready to eat. This is where the second feature of our application comes into play.

SmartFridge will also have a feature that combines one’s grocery list with a database of recipes. This will help people actually use the ingredients they have purchased. Some applications like BigOven and Yummly offer extensive, free databases of recipes, yet they do not incorporate a user’s grocery list to help them find recipes. Many people go shopping without recipes in mind, so creating an app that fits recipes to the user is much more practicable.

SmartFridge will pool recipes from a wide range of sources including AllRecipes, Food.com, and EatingWell, and will allow users to publish their own recipes in the application. As the app grows we will look to expand the amount of recipes in the database through partnerships with recipe catalogs and authors of cookbooks. For now, the focus will be on free recipes that are already available to the public.

Once compiled, these recipes will show up in our application based on each user’s grocery receipt. People will also be able to sort recipes according to their cooking ability and dietary preferences. That way, the application will allow for a customizable list of recipes that help users find the perfect recipe for them.

The most important aspect of the app is how easy it will be for users. One simple scan will create a list of recipes that help people find uses for their grocery list. This app empowers people by helping them know when their food expires and what recipes to use, all while reducing food waste and saving people money.

Unmet Need that SmartFridge Meets:

Food waste is not an unknown issue. Individuals, nonprofits, and governments are all looking for ways to reduce food waste and increase the sustainability of our food system. Surprisingly, the United States lacks technology that seeks to decrease waste on a person-to-person level. This is the need that SmartFridge fulfills.

The benefit of SmartFridge is that it can be used by individuals, families, and restaurants to help people efficiently keep track of the food in their fridge and find different ways to prepare it. Few people have the time and motivation necessary to keep track of the expiration dates of the food in their refrigerators, let alone determine the accuracy of those dates. SmartFridge streamlines this problem in one simple scan.

People may also lack the ability to find recipes that use up all the ingredients in their fridge. SmartFridge offers a list of recipes based on the foods in one’s fridge in order to cut down on food waste. This also saves users money by getting the maximum value out of one’s grocery visit. By using as many ingredients from one’s shop as possible, people will find that they need to eat out and shop less frequently.

SmartFridge consolidates all of this information into one place, allowing people to lead more sustainable, economically-efficient lifestyles.

Interviews:

Thomas Hislop, Male, Student, Ann Arbor, thhislop@umich.edu

“I’ve had this problem a dozen times. I hate wasting food that I’ve bought, but sometimes it ends up in the back of the fridge and you don’t see it for months. I’ve tried writing a list of everything I buy in the grocery store on my phone, but it takes way too much time.”

Dr. Sara Afshari, Female, Neurologist, Chicago, zafshari@gmail.com

“With three kids, my grocery list is so unbelievably big every week, and it can be so difficult to keep track of everything I buy. I like to think that I use everything we buy as a house, but I know that’s just not true.”

Grace Pernecky, Female, Student, Ann Arbor – gracpern@umich.edu

“As someone who cares a lot about sustainability, I try to be as conscientious as possible with my grocery buying habits but it can be hard to keep up with expiration dates, especially when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Sydney Gwinn, Female, Student, East Lansing – sgrebecca101@gmail.com

“The worst is when I get overzealous at the grocery store and buy some fancy new ingredients that I think I’ll use but end up never having [the time] to find a recipe that uses them all and isn’t too time consuming. I feel so bad when things go to waste before I get the chance to try them out.”

Size of Potential Market:

The potential market for this application is huge considering roughly 12% of our total food production is wasted annually, according to the United Nations Environment Program. This technology provides the opportunity to start confronting this issue by giving consumers the information they need to ensure their purchased food is not wasted. Furthermore, our application capitalizes on the rising trend of smartphone penetration, a prerequisite to download the software. Given that over 200 million Americans now own a smartphone, we see the potential market for our technology to be roughly 80% of the entire cell phone market, a statistic that will continue to rise over the next few decades (comScore).

How is SmartFridge Innovative? Closest Competitors?

Our software provides users with the information they need in order to reduce the amount of food waste that is generated by the United States. Other organizations have tried to tackle this issue in the past, but have failed to fix the root of the problem. At the University of Michigan, Food Recovery Network transfers unused food from dining halls to organizations dedicated to feeding the poor. However, the majority of our food waste can be attributed to households, where 38 million tons of food are disposed unnecessarily every year (EPA).

In addition, home appliance firms have started to develop “smart fridges” which contain the technology to track expiration dates of all food and produce within the fridge. This technology also can set reminders and warnings of when specific items of food are close to expiration, similar to the function of our application. However, these smart-fridges are incredibly expensive (Samsung’s smart fridge retail price is $3,500) and simply not accessible to the average American. Our software provides a much cheaper alternative to these products by partnering with grocery stores to transfer this information directly into the user’s smartphone. Moreover, we have differentiated our product from our competitors by giving consumers potential recipes they can use for their expiring food and produce.

How will SmartFridge be financially sustainable?

We will begin by offering a free version of the app in order to develop a user base. Then we will launch a premium option that costs money. The premium version of SmartFridge will include all of the perks of the free version (recipes and a timetable for expiration dates) and it will also offer an extended list of recipes. For the free version, the app would allow users to search between 5,000 recipes while the premium version extends to the application’s entire database. As the app grows, we will look to partner with authors of cookbooks, food blogs, and cook shows and add these recipes to the premium version.

Furthermore, this software would be relatively cheap to develop. Our team can leverage existing scraping algorithms to help explore many of the recipes that have already been posted across the internet. The low cost to develop and maintain the app will allow for the app to successfully function in its early stages until we launch the premium version.

Why We are the Right People to Develop SmartFridge:

Collectively, our team brings together a range of different experiences that all converge around environmental and social responsibility. Not only are we motivated to fix the food waste problem but we are also qualified. Bella has extensive experience with sociology and will be able to apply her skills in order for the app to have the most beneficial impact on the welfare of people. Aaron studies sustainable food systems and understands the complexities of food waste and how to best incorporate this information into the app. Arjan has taken computer science courses at the University of Michigan and has a vast amount of experience with using the software necessary for the development of the application.

References:

Barclay, Eliza. “The ‘Smart Fridge’ Finds The Lost Lettuce, For A Price.” NPR. NPR, 04 May 2012. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.

“ComScore Reports February 2016 U.S. Smartphone Subscriber Market Share.” ComScore, Inc. ComScore, Inc, 6 Apr. 2016. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.

“How Much Food Does America Waste Compared to Other Countries?” Rampage. UNIV 200, n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.

“Reducing Wasted Food At Home.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, 09 Jan. 2017. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.

“The Dating Game.” Shell Scripting Recipes (n.d.): 165-84. NRDC. NRDC, Sept. 2013. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.

 

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5 Responses to “Knight Vision Food Waste Pitch”

  1. Hi Arjan, Aaron, and Bella!
    I really like the idea of this app. Personally, I often forget that I bought food or it gets shoved to the back of the fridge and I do not find it until it goes bad and cannot be eaten anymore (gross, I know, but go college and roommate life). I have a couple of speculations and suggestions for how to improve the app, though!
    1) Add a feature where you can link it to a calendar and see when food is going to go bad. I use my Google Calendar constantly and it would be really helpful to see “eggs expire” as an event on a certain day. This also would help consumers keep better track of their food without having to open the app, necessarily.
    2) There are websites where you can input what ingredients you have and it gives you a recipe such as Supercook.com and myfridgefood.com. You may want to think of these as potential competitors. However, I still think your app gives an edge as it organizes products by when they expire, where these websites do not hold that feature. What I do think it could hinder, though, is the amount of people who purchase the premium version. If other services exist that give you recipes for free, why pay for them?
    3) I wonder how many people would actually scan their receipts into the app. While this is still easier than inputting each item separately, people are lazy and may not want to scan the receipt. I wonder if there is a way you could even try hooking it up to loyalty card programs, such as Kroger Card (Kroger) or mPerks (Meijer), which tracks what you purchase?
    In the end, though, I see this app having a lot of potential and could reach a large market and help tackle the food waste issue!

  2. Hi Guys!
    I like your idea, it seems very helpful–especially for college students, who may not go to the grocery store too easily, so they buy a lot at once. One thing that immediately came to mind when reading your proposal was another possible way for you to make money in your app–what if it suggested other foods for people to buy to make their recipe better? You could team up with local supermarkets–like Hallie suggested, Kroger, Meijer, whole foods, etc.– that already have mobile apps that allow for people to see their deals. Then, your app could have a “suggested items” tab that adds produce or other items to make the meal better, offered at the market’s price. I think this could both be helpful for people who don’t have a recipe plan, and also be a way of keeping your app afloat.
    I would agree that I’m not sure people would want to buy the app, especially when if they put some effort in, this could be easily done for free with better planning. However, some may appreciate the app enough to buy premium–but what would premium offer that the original does not? Is it just different unknown recipes?
    All in all, I think this is a great idea! I would absolutely download the app, it could help people save money, live healthier lives, and not have to clean expired foods out of their fridge.

  3. This is an awesome idea, guys- food waste is an important issue. One thing you’ll have to keep in mind is that there are varying times past the expiration date that food is still usable- some milk, for instance, is good for almost a week past its date. Accounting for that might be difficult to put in an algorithm, and might even be unsafe depending on the quality of food, but is worth considering, as it also could reduce food waste in an overstocked fridge.

    Another feature to consider to make the app more sustainable is allowing local grocery chains to advertise when they are having sales on items that expire in the next day- often, Meijer will have super mark-downs on products that are on the verge of going bad. This would allow you some ad revenue while sticking true to your vision of reducing food waste.

    Overall, really great idea, especially for large, busy families.

  4. Great Idea. I would definitely give this a try. I lose so much produce because I forget about them and never know how I could quickly come up with a meal using the produce. I have found a few competitors that have apps that are trying to tackle the same problem. These are Fresh Box ($1), Fridge Pal (free), and Whaz in the Fridge (free). Each of these attempt to keep track of your groceries’ expiration dates and find ways to expand a your budget by recommending recipes. SmartFridge has to differentiate from these apps. I recommend that SmartFridge be the all-inclusive grocery app. You guys could partner with delivery services like GrocerGO and get foods delivered when they are about to expire or you need one more item to complete a recipe. The app could take into account all of your recipes, dates, and find the cheapest combo of foods that will make the best recipe (based on the users preferences). Once the user runs out of an item in their fridge or an item is close to expiration, the SmartFridge app will automatically place an order through a delivery service. In order to make those changes financially sustainable I would also recommend a subscription service rather than a freemium model. This would make more sense because it would help with partnerships and pay for the added services that would make the SmartFridge a more all-inclusive grocery app.

  5. Hi, team Knight Vision/SmartFridge. Very interesting idea! I like many things about your proposal, including your roundup of near competitors and your list of references. I have to give Andrew lots of credit for finding some additional competitors. Please consider those and be ready to talk with the judges about how your idea is different and better.

    In addition, it might be interesting to find out how these competitors and near competitors are surviving financially. What can you learn from them? As someone who uses recipe sites now and then, I believe that some of these sites are making ads work for them.

    As you prepare your pitch, I recommend that you mention the statistics on food waste from households much sooner, as part of the description of the need. Also, you have many great suggestions from our classmates about potential partners. It might be interesting to try and talk to people in the grocery business for this project.

    Overall, great job! Impressive.

    Kindly,

    Emilia

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