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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
(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).
(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).
(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.
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 !
(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.
(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.