Hugh Weldon & Ahmad Mu’azzam
Project: The EvoCCo Project
WHAT’S YOUR STORY?
The idea for Evocco was born around the kitchen table in our student appartment in Trinity College as we procrastinated writing our Master’s Thesis. The group of friends was then four, and we were all studying Mechanical Engineering. A couple of us had recently switched to a vegetarian diet to try to reduce environmental impact, and we were very quickly frustrated with how difficult it was to shop sustainably when it came to food, and by how nothing other than a potential increase in profit would shift the behaviour of retailers. All products were packaged in plastic, and there was no effort made to communicate which products were climate resilient, and which ones we needed to start eating less of. Through research and interviews we quickly found that this was a problem that a lot of people were struggling with. They were conscious of the impact of food on the environment, and how certain foods would begin to become scarce, but had little idea of how to act.
So we started thinking about ways to educate the consumer, shift consumer demand, and send a clear message to retailers and producers that sustainability and climate resilience needed to be at the forefront of their strategies. As we dived deeper into the problem, we discovered that there was a large existing body of scientific research in the field of Life Cycle Assessment, but that this had done little to help consumers; it wasn’t being communicated in the right way. That was the beginning of our theory of change. If we can communicate impact to consumers in a clear and actionable manor, then we can start to change consumer purchasing behaviour which will in turn incentivise more sustainable practices along the food supply chain.
With this theory in hand we entered our first competition, the UNITECH International Carbon Footprint Challenge. The competition ran over multiple rounds of judging culminating in a two day final including workshops and a pitch. We won, and it’s what kicked started our start-up adventure.
After finishing our final exams we moved to Switzerland to take part in the Mass Challenge accelerator program in Lausanne. Mass Challenge has been the making of the project so far. We got to work on the project full time in a working space packed with bright and interesting people. The learning curve was steep, and we pivoted our idea twice during our time in Switzerland. Now we’ve moved back to Ireland, and gathered a strong team around us. We’ve added extra skills in design, software development, and marketing.
We’re preparing for the launch of our first beta test at the end of January. It’s a simple web app that allows shoppers to take a photograph of their shopping receipt and be shown immediately what the impact of the products they bought is, as well as getting a quick tip as to how they can shop for a more sustainable and resilient diet. We are very excited to be getting a boost from WDCD, and look to take everything we can from this opportunity.
WHAT HAS INFLUENCED YOUR PROJECT?
The founding members of the project studied together and lived together during college. Engineering is about inventing things to make the world a better place, and solving the greatest challenges of our time. We were heavily influenced by our education, and how it is a duty to tackle the big problems.
Books such as This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, and The Great Disruption have both made their mark on our approach to tackling the problem. Having decided to work on behavioural change in the consumer, the book Thinking, Fast and Slow has helped us grasp the basics of human decision making.
Something that has helped us to perseverve in testing times has been the support of people whi have come in contact with us through the project. Many people have rallied behind us and believe in the project, helping us in whatever way they can.
DESCRIBE YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS
We’re an active team. We spent five months across the summer and autumn of 2017 living by Lake Geneva in Switzerland, and used hikes in the mountains to refresh our creative process every weekend. It’s harder to do this in Ireland in the Winter, but we try to get our into nature as often as we can.
When it comes to brainstorming and ideation, things can get a little rowdy. Each of the team members tends to express themselves in a different way; walking on tables, lying flat on the ground, throwing a rugby ball around the working space. We use post-it notes to order our thoughts, and as soon as we have something that’s coherent we try to get out of the office and test it on people. We’re strong believers in Design Thinking, and try to churn plenty of paper iterations before we ever go near the computer. We then like to test with wireframes of varying resolution before we ever write a line of code, and when we do start we like to design the simplest version of the product first to keep it lean.
Fail fast, iterate, get outside of the office, and keep it lean.
Evocco is a web-based smart shopping assistant that empowers consumers to buy more eco-friendly food products. It gathers data about the environmental impact of food and food sustainability for a range of experts. The data collected through the system can be sold to food retailers and producers to generate revenue. The platform rates products according to factors such as greenhouse gas emissions, habitat loss, water usage, and deforestation. With the rated products, the assistant suggests the healthiest products with the lowest environmental impact, helping to educate consumers about the need for a more sustainable diet.