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Be an Urban Food Rescuer... Pokemon Go style! [UPDATE: Proof-of-concept demo can be tested worldwide using Kricket app]

Novel "last mile" urban food rescue logistics model using crowdmapping & gamification to engage, educate & empower food rescuers everywhere

Photo of Brian Tang
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ZacSnax seeks to initially establish a crowdsourced and gamified GPS-based mapping platform to facilitate transparency of availability of ripe or imperfect fruit at wet markets, green groceries, farmer's markets, supermarkets restaurants, hotels and caterers across Hong Kong and incentivised citizen collection and delivery of such fruit (think Pokemon Go... for fruit rescue).

Such a system would also engage, educate and empower the young and young-at-heart in the fight against food waste, can be easily replicated in different urban and suburban environments across the world (especially those with smart city initiatives, such as San Francisco, New York or Boston) and adapted for all types of other perishable food rescue (such as bread, vegetables, etc).

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Background - making rescued fruit into healthy snacks for all kids to enjoy

It all started as a 9 year old boy's idea to buy discounted ripe or imperfect fruit from Hong Kong wet markets and supermarkets before they are thrown away, dehydrate the fruit, and make nutritious fruit snacks for kids who can’t afford snacks, or otherwise would have bought unhealthy snacks. 

With the invaluable support of a small award from Kids4Kids Action For A Cause Impact Project Challenge,  ZacSnax was launched in late 2015.  

ZacSnax - Making Rescued Fruit into Healthy Snacks for All Kids To Enjoy

Then we met with Foodlink, an awesome food rescue charity, which kindly offered to provide rescued fruit donated by hotels and caterers to make ZacSnax. This really allowed us to multiply our impact of addressing Hong Kong's food waste and landfill issues, the latter of which capacity will be exhausted by 2018.

ZacSnax's young founder has since been honoured by receiving the Most Innovative Award for the AIA Emerging Entrepreneurs Challenge and Kids4Kids Young Change Makers Award, as well as an award from UNLtd Hong Kong.

Demonstrating and giving away ZacSnax dehydrated rescued fruit snacks to underprivileged children at J Life Foundation in Sham Shui Po

Parents love ZacSnax because it is all natural, with no preservatives, no additives and no colouring. And best of all, kids love the taste of the healthy snacks made from rescued fruit, where a child who consumed one pack consumed one whole fruit! In the meantime, children also learn more about imperfect fruit and feel empowered by being able to do something productive to fight food waste.

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You can hear more directly from ZacSnax's young founder on his original idea

Upgrading ZacSnax to also address food rescue's logistical "last mile" 

However, we soon learned that "traditional" urban food rescue often involves food trucks and call centres that rely on charity dependent models to financially support. This model produces a detrimental carbon footprint and yet still cannot access many potential sources of perishable food, especially within Asian wet markets or high-rise shopping centres. 

We have been inspired both by the rise of ridesharing apps (eg, Uber, GoGo Van) and crowdsourced disaster mapping projects after the Haiti and Fukushima earthquakes, the Kenyan election violence and Phillippines and Jakarta floodings.

But it was the summer success of Pokemon Go that really demonstrated the willingness of over 30 million young and young-at-heart across the world to follow their mobile phone maps to walk purposefully around their cities, and the potential to apply such zeal for capturing pocket monsters to rescuing food waste. 

Consider the following simple process:

(1) "Snap!" a photo of the rescued fruit to "Map!"

If a busy city fruit vendor, restaurateur or hotelier has surplus ripe or imperfect fruit to donate, all he or she would need to do is take a photo on his or her mobile phone, and the online map would immediately show the vendor's location and photo of fruit availability for rescue. The fruit can in the meantime be put in ZacSnax designated boxes for their convenience. These photos help would-be rescuers to understand what and how much is to be picked up, and also the ultimate recipient to verify what is to be received from the food rescuer.  

We are collaborating with existing food charities to extend their existing reach and donor relationships, and there are so many wonderful organizations in the United States and around the world.

We are so pleased to collaborate with Kricket to be able to demonstrate our proof-of-concept (POC). Kricket is a crowdmapping refugee aid, and can also be used to demonstrate this aspect of ZacSnax's food rescue platform. 

Please download Kricket from the App Store to try out this aspect of the user experience - press tag and then take a photo of fruit to be rescued to automatically and anonymously upload the fruit photo onto the map. These photos normally disappear after 24 hours on Kricket, but feel free to screen capture your map and fruit and send it to us together with your feedback! 

We conducted a recent field-test of the app when we visited Hong Kong's Western Wholesale Food Market with charity Ever Green Association, which has a "Food Share We Care" initiative, and as you can see from our screen captures below, there are lots of great fruit to be rescued!  You can see them listed online right now, regardless of where you are in the world. And better still, you can try the app out yourself to "snap!" and "map!" your own neighbourhood!  

Examples of ugly or ripe fruit to be rescued at Western Wholesale Food Market, including bananas, grapes, water melons, mangoes, apples and oranges. Without rescuers, you see some mangoes thrown away already!

(2) "Tap!" to Commit to Rescue the Fruit 

Fruit rescuers young and young-at-heart can learn in real-time on the ZacSnax map of all such fruit availability in the city, and can commit to a time for pick-up and delivery that day at a click of a button. A simple one-time pre-registration is required. 

(a) Fruit rescuers can choose their own travel mode, including on foot, bicycle, public transport (train, bus, tram), ride-sharing and/or private car, and we will seek to collaborate with local public transportation companies to provide incentives and support to food rescuers. 

(b) We will seek to collaborate with corporate fruit rescuers, such as courier companies, logistics and transportation companies, ride-sharing platforms as well as be part of corporate wellness programs to encourage walking and healthy snacking.  

(c) Community groups make great fruit rescuers, including schools, universities, churches, youth organizations, clubs and corporations (including as part of their community volunteering programs). 

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology students involved in a bread run organised by Feeding Hong Kong

(d) We will design food rescue transportation pouches that offer food safety (like the insulated ones used by Food Donation Connection) as well as instant recognition of the worthy registered food rescuers walking around the city - these also offer wonderful opportunities for recognition of corporate and foundation sponsorship support). 

Food Donation Connection's Jim Larson shared FDC's insulated food rescue transportation pouch

(3) Drop-off nodes for redistribution and/or dehydration

Initially, drop-off nodes would be convenient pickup sites for traditional food rescue charities to bring to underserved communities (thereby serving as a "last mile" food rescue solution) or at the charities themselves.

In due course, we hope that nodes would facilitate simple fruit snack dehydration processing. Since food processing licenses are required, we hope to partner with eg, licensed bakeries and cafes to house the dehydrators that will make "surprise packs" of the all natural mixed fruit snacks that address the inconsistent quantities and varieties of rescued fruit supply. Ideally, we also hope to create new jobs for marginalised local communities that may otherwise have difficulty getting jobs. 

(4) Gamification and Big Data

(a) Food donors would have their premises listed on a map (like Pokestops) with their donations being recognised based on amount and type donated - such map listings can generate foot traffic and business and would be of more commercial and tangible value to donors and can augment certifications of good corporate citizenship. Participating food donors can engage in online marketing to announce sales to interested rescuers, sponsor rewards to rescuers and may also get access to data such as their proximity to rescuer locations. 

(b) Food rescuers would be recognised and rewarded depending on eg, amount and type of food delivered and distance travelled. Calorie counts (like in the CityMapper app) could also be added an additional health incentive and measurement. We continue to learn and develop new techniques from eg, Yu-kai Chou's Gamification and Behavioural Design Octalysis framework. 

Octalysis Gamification Framework by Yu-kai Chou

Reward points earned by food rescuers can be redeemed for:

(i) real world rewards (eg, sponsored awards; discount coupons at participating donors and third parties (eg, e-commerce companies); healthy dehydrated fruit snacks); and 

(ii) virtual rewards designed based on Pokemon-like characters inspired by food (initially fruit) that will also educate the young and young-at-heart about food waste and healthy eating. These can be upgraded and are tradeable, and entitle food rescuers to accumulated points for real world and other virtual rewards.

Leaderboards will also motivate food rescuers to compete to rescue more fruit (eg, champion levels between individuals, schools, corporates, districts, clubs, etc). 

We are planning a trial gamification test in conjunction with Zac's school fun fair in November. Students and their parents will be encouraged via the PTA to visit neighbourhood fruit stores and utilise Kricket to "snap" and "map" the location of the fruit being rescued, and then deliver the rescued fruit to school where an offline leaderboard will be tallied to recognise and reward outstanding food rescuers at the individual, class, grade and house levels. The rescued fruit would then be made into healthy snacks to be sold at the school fair for fundraising - so the students would get to taste the fruit they rescued, thereby changing their relationship with their food

We plan to design characters and playability to induce the young and young-at-heart to grow from pocket monster catchers to food rescuers

(5) Innovative sale of healthy all natural fruit snacks

(a) Sales channels - In addition to supermarkets, specialty health stores, school canteens and vending machines, we are exploring the market of subscription-based box healthy snacks models which can be made to families, churches as well as corporate workplaces as part of their wellness programs. 

(b) Pricing and packaging - We are proposing a Tom's Shoe-like 2-for-1 model, where sales of every 2 packets of fruit snacks would result in 1 being given to those who cannot afford it. We propose using environmentally friendly refillable and reusable bags for the disadvantaged communities to reduce packaging waste. 

Healthy snack subscription boxes are a good sales channel for ZacSnax, especially for food rescuers

(6) Scalable impact across different perishable foods and jurisdictions

(a) Application to different perishable foods - ZacSnax started with a focus on fruit rescue. This online-to-offline (O2O) model can also apply to other perishable food in urban centres, such as bread, vegetables and even coffee beans

(b) Application to different jurisdictions - Similarly, while ZacSnax started in Hong Kong, this O2O model can also apply to other urban centres around the world. 

Gamification and online marketing are particularly important elements for food rescue in countries such as Hong Kong, where there is currently no tax deduction nor municipal waste levy to businesses. ZacSnax can be scalable to other such jurisdictions, and can be even more appealing in countries such as the United States which already have these benefits. 

Through the wonderful OpenIDEO community, we have so far found wonderful collaborators to help research Boston, New Jersey/New York and San Francisco, and potentially San Mateo, Karachi, Pakistan, and Abuja, Nigeria for potential chapters in their respective cities. 

(7)  Financially sustainable social enterprise

We aim to create a sustainable enterprise that creates a win-win-win proposition between donors, rescuers and beneficiaries. 

Revenue streams would include online marketing and big data gathering for donors, plus sponsorships and sales of the dehydrated fruit snack. 

Positive reception from stakeholders to date 

(a) Food rescue charities such as Foodlink and Ever Green Association are actively speaking with us on assisting with their "last mile" logistics to their food donors. We have also been invited to join a recently formed Hong Kong government's Social Innovation and Entreprenuership Development Fund Food Support Flagship Project to contribute towards a Hong Kong-wide initiative to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the overall food support service. In fact, gaining funding from sources such as Closed Loop Foundation as part of this OpenIDEO Challenge could be catalytic and allow us to access 1-for-1 matching funding from the SIE Fund. 

(b) The concept of empowering food rescuers seems to resonate well, with great interest from school and church groups. As previously mentioned, we are currently planning a pilot as part of a school fair in late November where students will use the Kricket platform to take photos of fruit they are rescuing and donating to be made into healthy fruit snacks to fundraise for the school, with the gamification elements done offline at the school. 

(c) The idea of combining crowdmapping and gamification to address food waste has captured the imagination of many and won us a lot of support. Even though in concept stage, ZacSnax won a CityTech Award as part of Walk21 Hong Kong organised by the Civic Exchange and the Internet Society of Hong Kong, and we have also been invited to speak at ITCR Forum, Hong Kong's largest information technology forum for NGOs organised by the Hong Kong Council of Social Services (an umbrella organization of over 340 social services organizations) on “Utilizing Mobile Technology to Strengthen Social Service Delivery”. In the meantime, we continue on deliberations regarding the optimal technology platform, eg, Apple IOS and/or Android; whether to join Esri's startup program and/or develop the platform from open source software such as Crowdmap and Open Street Map and/or Google Maps. 

Receiving the CityTech Award from Hong Kong government's undersecretary of the Innovation and Technology Bureau Dr David Chung

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We are conducting various concurrent trials, including: - using the Kricket refugee crowdmapping app to demonstrate proof-of-concept - engaging students and parents in fruit rescue using Kricket as part of a school fair - engaging one or more food rescue charities to conduct a trial using Kricket with some established donors and one or more community groups within an identified densely populated location such as Wanchai which has wet markets, supermarkets as well as subway, tram and bus lines

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Welcome OpenIDEO collaborators on: - crowdmapping software and development experience - gamification to incentivise and engage - food rescue charities on how this platform and approach may help their operations - designers of Pokemon-like characters inspired by food (initially fruit) - on the ground research on local food rescue ecosystems for expanding this idea to different jurisdictions - community leaders who want to engage their communities in food rescue locally

Tell us about your work experience:

Founder of 2 EdTech startups, including Young Makers & ChangeMakers ( ), a pioneering inclusive education platform and community which fosters young maker mindsets and 21st century skills through design thinking and maker education. A corporate finance lawyer who has worked in New York, Silicon Valley and Hong Kong on financing technological, social and environmental innovation. Chairman of charity boards and father of ZacSnax founder Zac

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm

How far along is your idea?

  • It was in the works before this challenge – it’s existed for 2-6 months

How would you describe this idea to your grandmother?

A smartphone game to encourage and reward the young and young-at-heart to rescue fruit across our cities and towns that might otherwise be thrown away to make into healthy snacks or given to the poor. This is a healthy solution for both the rescuer walkers and snackers, and helps address the chronic food waste and landfill problem in a financially sustainable way that makes everyone a winner.

[Only for launched ideas] How does your idea differ from what you're already doing?

ZacSnax's 9 year old founder's original idea was to make rescued fruit into healthy snacks for all kids to enjoy. To scale our impact and address a critical issue in food rescue of "last mile" logistics especially in urban centres, we are now focussed on creating a way to engage, educate and empower the young and young-at-heart to be food rescuers, and in the process, transform their relationship with their food.

How is your idea unique to the space?

To augment the current charity food rescue truck and upcycle food waste models, we are hoping to engage andeducate citizens to appreciate food waste and healthy snacking and to empower and motivate them to actively participate in food rescue. Mobile phone technology now allows each individual to provide and learn of real-time mapping co-ordinates of perishable food that may otherwise be wasted, and modern gamification methods provide techniques to incentivise behaviour that benefits one and all.

Who needs to play a role in your idea in order to make it successful?

Food rescue charities have great relationships with food donors that would benefit from this logistics model. Organizations such as schools, universities, churches, clubs and other community groups make great initial volunteer rescuers. Transportation and logistics companies (traditional as well as ride-sharing) would also be great partners for greater distances and volumes. And good software developers and designers are essential to help make the user experience easy and enticing.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

Impact measurements include: - map and number of fruit donors registered on platform - number of individual fruit rescuers registered on the platform - amount of fruit waste rescued by weight - number and frequency of fruit rescues engaged - sales of dehydrated fruit snacks to sustain the social enterprise - number of pilot collaborations with like-minded individuals and groups in different jurisdictions - increased awareness of food waste issue amongst participants

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

Develop a pilot crowdmapping platform with gamification elements in collaboration with one or more food rescue charities and community organization partners to beta-test fruit rescue within a defined geographic area. Identify proximate drop-off nodes where deliveries can be made for dehydration into fruit snacks and/or delivery to charitable beneficiaries.
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Team (25)

Gianni's profile
Brian's profile
Niki's profile
Niki Ramchandani

Role added on team:

"Food rescue champion for New York/ New Jersey"

Emily's profile
Emily Bell

Role added on team:

"Food rescue champion for Boston"

Ahmed's profile
Ahmed null

Role added on team:

"Proponent for involving courier companies"

Francis's profile
Kate's profile
Kate Rushton

Role added on team:

"OpenIDEO Food Waste Champion"

Raghava Manvitha Reddy's profile

"Gamification design idea generator"

marco's profile
Marcos's profile
Anne-Laure's profile
Carlos's profile
Carlos de Santiago

Role added on team:

"Food rescue champion from NY"

Beckie's profile
Beckie Wei

Role added on team:

"Young food rescue champion for San Mateo"

Esther's profile
Esther Li19

Role added on team:

"Young food rescue champion for San Mateo"

Charlotte's profile
Charlotte Hwang

Role added on team:

"Food rescue champion of HK"

Julie's profile
Julie Fineman

Role added on team:

"Food rescue champion from LA restaurants"

Josephine's profile
Josephine Liang

Role added on team:

"Food rescuer pickle and networker queen"

Cameron's profile
Cameron Hanson

Role added on team:

"Food rescuer transport pouch design guru from Parsons"

Amber's profile
Melissa's profile
Melissa Tardiff

Role added on team:

"Food waste child educator"

Megan's profile
Megan Kennedy

Role added on team:

"Employee wellness program guru"

Courtney's profile
Courtney Gonzales

Role added on team:

"Inclusive job creator from rescuing food waste"

Dhananjay's profile
Dhananjay Abhang

Role added on team:

"Discount coupon champ"

No Food Waste's profile
No Food Waste

Role added on team:

"Hunger Crowdmapper"

Aine's profile
Aine Gormley-Gallagher

Role added on team:

"Corporate certificate of recognition champion"


Join the conversation:

Photo of A Bin

Hello Brain, 

I do believe that this is a great idea, it is difficult to change people way of living by trying to reduce their food intake due to many reasons which takes a long time to fix. However, this app taps on the easiest and fastest solution to the problem. Just great. 

All the best

Photo of Brian Tang

Many thanks for the kind words A Bin  and Ezgi Sengun  .  Last weekend, I shared Be an Urban Food Rescuer... Pokemon Go style! [UPDATE: Proof-of-concept demo can be tested worldwide using Kricket app] at the InnoASEAN Makers Summit in Singapore, where I was also a guest judge for the SEA Makerthon Grand Finale of young makers from 10 cities presented their projects to address waste across southeast Asia. Received lots of good feedback and support there too! Together, we can make a difference! 

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