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8 May, 2020 - 21:03 By Tony Quested

Nosh – the food app that tracks ‘sell by’ dates and alerts you

Households can keep better track of their fridge and cupboard food stocks during COVID-19 thanks to a free food monitoring smartphone app developed by the University of Essex.

The pandemic has totally changed most people’s food buying habits – from stockpiling groceries in the early weeks of the crisis to shopping less often, at different times and in different ways.

But these changes have also meant households run the risk of having more food waste as they adapt to new shopping routines.

Computer scientists from the University’s School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering have joined forces with colleagues in India to develop a free smartphone app capable of reminding households of the expiry date of the stocked items before they expire. 

The project – called nosh – was initiated by Somdip Dey and Anupam Ghosal, who met while working on a business idea at the StudioX start-up hub at the University.

“When the COVID-19 crisis started, we were no different from anyone else affected by the pandemic,” explained Somdip. “Everyone started to overbuy food as they wanted to isolate and practice social distancing. However, the biggest issue faced was managing a lot of food items in the fridge, especially the ones which have short expiry dates.”

With no app available on the market to make it easy for households to be reminded of food expiry dates while effectively managing their food supplies and track buying habits, the Essex team along with colleagues in India decided to develop one.

Anupam added: “At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic there was uncertainty around supplies and people started to panic buy food and other necessary items. 

“Stores started running out and people started over-consuming. Due to a lack of management a lot of food was wasted every single day which could have fed someone in need. We personally faced these issues and decided to do something to tackle them.

“We clearly realised the lack in management of food resources, so we came up with the ‘nosh’ app, the solution to the food problem during the pandemic.”

The nosh app gained nearly 300 users in its first week of being released and gained good feedback from users. The research team is now seeking extra funding to further improve the nosh app.

Using artificial intelligence, the app enables the users to track the expiry date of food items along with the user’s buying and food waste habits, which enable the user to make an informed decision on what items to buy or not to buy. 

The user can plan their shopping in-app before they go out to buy the items. The user is also able to get recipe suggestions on the stocked items so they can utilise the items better before they expire.

The nosh team also includes Suman Saha, a computer engineering student from the University of Engineering and Management (UEM) in Kolkata, India and programming enthusiast Lakshya Gupta.

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