Value Loops' Food Waste Hackathon, Barcelona

Creating solutions for the global food waste problem.
Christian Aranda
Christian Aranda
June 27, 2018

I was invited by Glenn Goodwin, one of the lead organisers, to attend Value Loops’annual Food Waste Hackathon last week. I headed over to The Fusion Point at ESADE, a space designed to incubate innovative thinking and experimentation, for a day of problem-solving.

The Hackathon took place over two days. The focus of the first day was on generating ideas and creating synergy between us, so that we could work together effectively with the shared goal of finding solutions to specific waste-related problems.

Throughout the event, the organisers encouraged us to:

  • Keep it simple and build on the ideas of others.
  • Not get caught up in a single phase or on a single skill.
  • Play to the mix of competencies and knowledge in our groups and find ways to work together without getting bogged down.
  • Have fun.

The first day

The Hackathon kicked off with a presentation on food waste, and the problems it poses for society, before we all got stuck into an icebreaker exercise so that we could get to know one another a little more.

We sat around a table equipped with a paper bag and a piece of white paper. Our first task was to draw the person in front of us with a single pen trace, our efforts concealed by the paper bag. We were then tasked with introducing this person, with a funny anecdote or fact supplied by them, to the other 40 participants. Despite the fact that this was a quick exercise, it was interesting how much we all got to know one another and how much people used their imaginations along the way.

Following the introductory presentation and the icebreaker, the challenges were presented. I participated in the challenge to help reduce food waste at home. Our group had three main focus points by the end of the first day: brainstorming, teamwork and user-centred design.

In terms of brainstorming, my team generated ideas quickly and soon expanded into alternatives. The group dynamic served to effectively encourage innovation, however strange the ideas seemed at first, whilst also staying focused on the task at hand. We were able to build on this enthusiasm throughout the day with each of us posing problems, solutions and insights in pursuit of answers.

We recognised early on that teamwork would help us gain fresh perspectives and expand our thinking, so we encouraged group effort throughout the day in order to put our new ideas into practice.

As an app developer, I know the importance of user-centred design. By the end of the first day, we had found an approach that was not only mindful of the wider issue at hand but of the end user and their needs too.

Food Waste Hackathon Event

The second day

I, unfortunately, couldn’t participate in the second day properly but I did still end up learning a lot from the process. In the interests of documenting the two days, I asked Glenn for a summary of the events.

He mentioned that the challenges on the second day were focused on developing and prototyping the ideas that we’d created on the first day.

Within Glenn’s group alone, two new ideas appeared on the second day! One idea was to produce a game, targeted at universities, that focused on reducing waste. The other idea was to create a food waste community. In order to develop both ideas, they decided to split their team.

Glenn’s task was to develop an app that helps people manage their kitchen inventory, in order to help people manage what they buy, what they waste, and to give them ways of using all of their produce in full.

As a result of both brainstorming and presenting, Glenn developed some valid insights into his project that he can take with him going forward.

Conclusion

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the Food Waste Hackathon. It was well-organised and well-designed and the group dynamics were on point.

This all served to promote idea generation and, in turn, meant that we ended the two days with a whole host of new and innovative ways to tackle the global issue of food waste. Who knows where the ideas will take us!

If you have access to similar events in your area, I would highly recommend that you attend them.

(featured image credit)