Eatcyclopedia: A Phone App to Help Connect and Inform
UPDATED: Although interactive apps are useful, another possibility for an app is a prebuilt app that can be used offline like an encyclopedia that focuses on food production and consumption. Accessing the information doesn’t have to take place at a store or market, but anywhere (even if you don’t have WiFi or 3G). However, there will be a WiFi component enabled (such as QR code look up feature, ability to push content up to the database, etc.). For the sake of this concept I’m going to refer to it as the Queensland Eatcyclopedia App. I’ve made some mock-ups that would best describe the general features of such an app.
How to Grow It
Meet the Farmers
Before going any further it is important to note that (according to Nielson, 2010):
- 43% of online Australians now own a smartphone
- 26% participated in mobile social networking in the past year
- 66 % of mobile social networkers are under 35 years of age
Create a smart phone app that is like an encyclopedia of food production. Here is the kicker: It is well designed and simple, full of meaningful and telling info. This is inspired in part by the IDEO Method Cards (
http://www.ideo.com/work/method-cards). Any food source (vegetable, fruit, meats, etc.) is searchable. The mock-ups should be self-explanatory, if not poor design on my part (the more intuitive the more likely it will be used).
1. SLIDE 2: Multi Search Function: You can search the database (no Internet connection required), you can search by QR tag (requires Internet), or by a food code label number (requires Internet). You can update database on this page, as well as add/suggest new additions that do not appear.
2. SLIDE 3: A-Z Listing of all foods (with demarcation of vegetable, fruit, meat, or herb)
Some additional features that may be added (based on what the team of smart do-gooders have suggested, see comments for attribution):
1. DATA POPULATION: The data will be populated from three primary sources: (a) general research to populate various types (i.e. list of foods, nutritional facts [precooked and cooked], foods in danger/rarity, foods by season, etc.); (b) farmers and producers can upload information to the database via mobile phone or internet; (c) given the platform will be open for submission, the general community, particularly organizations, university students/instructors, other students (for projects), and the general population (there would need to be review by product manager to maintain some threshold of quality).
2.INTERACTIVE FEATURE: Beyond the recipe feature, there can also be an interactive feature, or as mentioned an "educational" component, like a fun trivia game, or a scavenger hunt, other gaming component. Also, people could submit recipes themselves (see #1) or place new locations on the map (where) section.
3. INCENTIVE FOR USE: I think the app should be free. It should perhaps have advertisements (annoying) or build in discount features (like foursquare or groupon) where there you get discounts for foods near your location (using GPS feature of smartphones.
4. OTHER MODALITIES: As mentioned previously a web version of the app could easily share the database, and thus it would be available online, at home, demo stations in grocery stores (think Barnes and Noble book search stands), schools, libraries, and other places. ADDITIONALLY, you could have an annual or periodic printed version of the book, or perhaps mini-print products (like booklets, etc.).
5. PASSIVELY ACTIVE FEATURE: You could have an option wherein if you get close to a farmers market, or a store with local foods, you get a buzz letting you know. Alternatively, you can include a "my shopping list" feature, where each app saves your preferences for items, and suggests complementary local foods that go with it; or perhaps it has a pop up giving you some info about a food you buy more than 3 times, etc.
What actions would need to be taken to turn this idea into a reality?
You would need three essential things to get a beta working:
1. App Development (this is the tech side, using the mock ups as a guide for backend development.
2. Some basic information to populate data (draw this from existing data bases, online encyclopedias, and other accessible information).
Steps 1 and 2 would bring the actual application into reality
The next step would bring the product into usability
3. User base, advertise the app in partnership with government, stores, farmers, schools, through various marketing to get people to use it. There needs to be a partnership of initial stakeholder to support the initiative.
Who might make a good partner for this project?
This product can actually be very participatory in nature. While it is indeed narrow in it's target audience (people who have smartphones or internet)--still a good chunk of urban dwellers--many are involved:
1. Farmers (stories about those who grow the food; also they can identify locations and data)
2. End-users can submit recipes, items that do not appear, and locations of farms, etc.
3. The Market (both farmers market and grocery stores): they can be be proponents of this by offering space for advertisement, sponsoring it, etc.; in turn perhaps having a "sponsors" status and encouraging buying produce and other items
4. Government can help sponsor the initial build of it, promote it in other campaigns, and do self-promoting through the site, creating a clear vision and point of view on local food production, etc. The published book can also be a product of the government to various sites, etc. They can also facilitate NGO and private sector sponsorship of it.
5. Schools: Various levels of schools from university to junior high can participate in producing content for the database, to help start a food conscious movement; making the next generation of consumers and producers leaders in the intimate connection between the two
6. Private sector: sponsors
7. Celebrity endorsements and guest recipe submitters (also favorite foods, etc.) (thanks Louise)
8 Sina Mossayeb: cheerleader
What suggestions would you have for potential sources of funding for the development of this project?
Government grant (see money for development)
Eatcyclopedia: The Book
Donations (given it is a free app)
[and if possible...]