4/09/2013 12:00:00 PM

San Francisco's First Food Hackathon Innovates with Phone Apps and Insect Farming

Buglava, made with bugs and worms, photo via Twitter, DaveMcClcure

“The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.” - Paul Cezanne

Look out Silicon Valley. Hackathons are not just for programming nerds anymore. Over the weekend, San Francisco hosted the first-ever Food Hackathon, which brought together over 200 passionate designers, developers, software and hardware companies, investors, entrepreneurs and food lovers with the hopes of building new hardware and software tools, services and other products that innovate and positively improve the food system.

Over the two-day event, teams of eager attendees who came from as far away as Singapore, Poland and India to participate formed teams organized around 14 different pitches to see who could come up with the best killer app or solution to a challenge in our current broken food system, with the carrot of over $25,000 worth of prizes allotted to the top three winners. Pitches ranged from creating a real-world Farmville to a large scale mechanized harvest machine that allows insect farmers to isolate bugs from their dirt with a jet of air as a low-cost means to yielding a viable protein source, the organizers of which even brought some house-made bug-lava, which is exactly what it sounds like (shown above) to win the crowd over.

The winning hacks included Vibrantly (overall), an phone app that allows diners to search for healthy recipes based on color (using the Yummly open-sourced API), Garden BnB (social), that connects wannabe gardeners with unused garden space or fruit bearing trees, Slim Menu (new technology), a smart phone app using recognition software for restaurant-goers that translates menu text into web images, Tiny Farms (hardware), the aforementioned edible insect machinery, and Touchless Ticket (Leap Motion Challenge), for a gesture-based touch-less ordering program for restaurants. (You can read about all the pitches on HackerLeague.)

Tim West, one of the three organizers of the event along with Matt Wise and Wayne Sutton, who opened the session donning in a carrot suit and leading a group “Yum”, was delighted with the weekend’s results. "It’s validation that there is so much energy around food entrepreneurship right now and for start-ups to utilize resources and capitalize on the problems of the food systems." 

West has already received requests to implement food hackathons in New York, Chicago, Houston, Ashville, Vancouver and Hungary as a result of people hearing about the event. In the meantime, he and the other organizers are already planning the next Food Hackathon for the weekend of June 1 and to coincide with the National Day for Civic Hacking, which is being organized by The White House. To get involved, check the group’s website or social media pages. 


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