Students cook up Fit Dish idea as part of CityLab project

A student plan to cut food waste in Aberdeen has come out on top as part of a project aiming to build sustainable projects for the city.

The pilot CityLab initiative saw students from the University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University (RGU) team up with Aberdeen City Council to look at city-wide challenges and develop innovative, tangible solutions around them.

This 12-week human-centred design programme saw the students, from a wide range of courses across both universities including business, computing and art and design, develop ideas specifically designed to tackle social and cultural change within the city before presenting their ideas to a group of invited stakeholders.

Among the ideas pitched was a new take on an Airbnb-style online portal; a cultural hub providing space for start-up businesses and independent food outlets as a way of establishing a creative eco-system in the city; improvements to cycling infrastructure including the introduction of two Dutch-style roundabouts to increase safety; and a project looking at how to increase the use and safety of the city’s parks.

The winning idea, which stakeholders voted to theoretically invest in following a Dragon’s Den style pitch, was Fit Dish, developed by University of Aberdeen students Bogdan Goroneanu and Robyn Hannaford, and RGU student Jordan Pellerin.

Focusing on reducing food waste in the city, the idea would see the students source unused food from outlets such as supermarkets and use the kitchen facilities of partner organisations to create meals.

They would then sell the food from a tuk tuk, stopping at various locations in the city, on a ‘Pay as You Feel’ basis, meaning people give what they can afford or feel the food is worth.

Robyn said: “It is essentially a pop-up, portable café which sources excess food that is still good to eat. A huge amount of food that is still edible gets wasted in the UK every day so this would be a way of reducing that wastage through a social enterprise.”

Bogdan said: “We were surprised that our project attracted the most support from stakeholders but we are confident in the concept. Social enterprise and food waste are topics which have a high degree of visibility at the moment and we believe Fit Dish has a huge amount of potential to be successful.”

Jordan added: “We’ve researched how these things have worked elsewhere around the country see it is an opportunity to create something really positive – it is a way of bringing people together and overcoming social barriers.”

The CityLab initiative, which was led by Aberdeen City Council Transformation and Innovation Officer Zoe Evans, was inspired by a similar scheme in Vancouver and aims to create a path for students to gain live client experience in the working world while helping to create sustainable projects to develop a better city and community.

Aberdeen City Council Communities, Housing and Infrastructure convener Councillor Neil Cooney said: “I am very impressed with the ideas that the students taking part in the CityLab project have come up with and am delighted to hear that the aim is now to develop some of these projects further.

“The aim of the initiative is to look at how we can create a culture of innovation in Aberdeen, and I hope that the students can attract partners to come on board and help them take these projects to fruition.”

Dr. Bruce Scharlau, senior teaching fellow at Aberdeen University, said: “This project is all about looking at how we can get students out of the classroom and into the city – to engage with people, to come up with new ideas and create something positive for the community.

“It is quite amazing what the students have managed to do in just a term and this is just the first CityLab of hopefully many.”

Dr. Jon Pengelly, product design lecturer at Gray’s School of Art, said: “It has been great seeing the range of ideas that the students have developed and what has really struck me is the way that each of them has really been able to tap into a key issue for the city – the students have shown a real awareness of what is happening in Aberdeen and the solutions that they have presented reflect that.”

The next CityLab will take place in September 2016.

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