Student entrepreneurs Siena and India are taking on the food waste challenge with their innovative, fridge scanning app. What started as a classroom project has grown to a working prototype, winning its inventors the Big Bang Fair’s Junior Engineer of the Year award and a shot at pitching their idea at St James’ Palace. We met up with them to find out more!
Tell us a bit more about the Eat Me app. How does it work?
Siena: Eat Me is an IOT solution that helps transform the relationship between the consumer and the amount of food they waste in their homes. We have built a working prototype that turns any fridge into a smart fridge. It scans best before dates, optimises menus, orders food or even alerts another user if you are running out of certain products in your fridge.
India: It does this by connecting to a scanner secured inside your fridge. You scan the barcode located on the product, or at the end of your receipt, and the data is then sent to the app. It then alerts you when your food is about to go off and you can earn small rewards for saving food.
How did you come up with the idea to develop the app?
Siena: We started Eat Me as part of a school project. We were given the challenge to try and tackle an environmental problem and decided to look at food waste. Homes in the UK waste a staggering 7.3 million tonnes of food per year, which surprised and shocked us!
India: After conducting surveys, we realised that wasting food is not something people do intentionally, but it is something that most people would like to change. Knowing this, we set our minds to finding an environmentally friendly, accessible and simple way to prevent food waste in people’s homes. We wanted to focus on reducing food waste at the source, by suggesting recipes and setting ‘use-by’ reminders for the contents of your fridge. Eat Me does just that.
That sounds like quite a complex bit of kit. How did you go about making it a reality?
We approached local companies in Bristol to learn from their expertise and raise enough funds to build our prototype fridge. We pitched our idea to multiple companies to gain their advice on different aspects of the original designs and plans.
Siena: This project has helped to develop our skills in communicating and pitching. Other than a couple of school assemblies, this is not a skill you usually come across as young teenagers. However, Eat Me taught us that to get anywhere, we first need to convince customers of our perspective.
India: On top of this, we have also learnt some basic coding and how to design simple systems. This was an aspect of our project that we had never explored before.
You’ve come a long way since starting out on your school project. What have been some of the highlights?
India: At every hurdle, we have been surprised by what we can achieve if we put our minds to it. We started out entering the Big Bang Fair, where we were lucky enough to awarded junior young engineers of the year. This was an incredible opportunity, especially as we were entering a world in which we knew so little about!
Siena: Attending Viva Tech in Paris after winning the Sodexo Food Challenge was a whole different kind of achievement, testing our communication and pitching skills. We would say we are most proud of going to Vivatech, as this was a competition that levelled us against other startups with adult founders and really put us to the test.
What comes next for Eat Me?
Siena: Earlier this year we won Pitch@Palace on tour in Bristol and in October, we will attend the Pitch@Palace bootcamp, where we will pitch against 42 other startups. If we succeed in being selected as one of the top twelve startups, we will be given the opportunity to attend and pitch at St James Palace!
India: However, even if we do not make the final list of start-ups, we will be entered for the people’s choice awards, where the public can vote for their favourite business idea. In the long term, we would love to continue developing our product and, with our passion for the environment, inspire young people to be more conscientious about the food they waste.
So, do you think startups like Eat Me are the way forwards for creating a more sustainable world?
We believe that engineering based startups are vital in protecting our planet for the future. As our world continues to develop, engineering can open doors that will reach more people than ever in our global community.
That sounds promising! Before we leave you, is there any advice would you give to young people around the world who are inspired to follow in your footsteps?
We would truly encourage them to go for what they are passionate about and never let anyone undermine you for your age, gender or anything else that defines you for who you are. All ideas have setbacks but what determines their success is how you recover from them. Never let the setbacks stop you from reaching your goals!