IN THE NEWS | UPLB app for healthy eating wins FLExPHD

| Written by Padayon UP




Written by Leander C. Domingo                     |                    6 July 2023


CREATED by a team from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), HEAL-PH mobile application bagged the top prize at the “Food is Life Exemplified: Planetary Health Diet” (FLExPHD) app development competition.


The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) said UPLB’s Team M1R4G3, with six members, developed HEAL-PH to help students develop healthy eating habits patterned after the planetary health diet (PHD).


IN PHOTO: Team M1R4G3 exhibits the HEAL-PH app, which was awarded first place during the FLExPHD Grand Finals held at Searca in Los Baños on June 28, 2023. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO / Manila Times)


Val Randolf Madrid, Team M1R4G3 representative, explained that the HEAL-PH app can recognize food from images and score health points to help eaters evaluate their choices.


“It was really fun. As a tech guy, I was just very happy that we were able to run a lightweight AI [Artificial Intelligence] model on a cellphone offline,” Madrid said.


Team M1R4G3 will receive P500,000 to further develop the HEAL-PH into a downloadable app to be launched in October 2023.


Organized by Searca, the FLExPHD aims to support transforming the food system and eating decisions toward PHD, a science-based, values-driven, plant-based diet.


The competition was in collaboration with the National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines (NAST PHL) and the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DoST-Pcaarrd).


Dr. Jaime Montoya, NAST PHL president, explained that PHD offers solutions to achieve the goals of a healthy and nutritious diet, sustainable production for a sustainable environment, and just system for farmers and producers.


He said food security has always been one of the important pillars and core directions and that the use of emerging technologies is one way to bridge the gap in these areas.


Dr. Glenn Gregorio, Searca director, commended the impressive demonstration of various FLExPHD apps that tell the story of healthy food choices.


Citing FLExPHD as celebrating innovation in making PHD-compatible food choices through mobile applications, Gregorio said “[e]very food on our plate has gone through a journey that touches farmer’s lives, our land, water and other natural resources as well as our local culture. Indeed, our individual choices have a collective consequence.”


From the Philippine Science High School-Eastern Visayas Campus, second place went to Team MAPA for developing the VICTU app, which aimed at streamlining cafeteria management for healthy food options. The team will receive P200,000 as prize money.


It was a tie for third place. AskEdi! and Sustainsia apps will receive a prize of P50,000 each.


Team Ediscape from Western Visayas developed AskEdi! which offers locally sourced, planet-friendly personalized meal plans delivered to consumers’ doorsteps.


On the other hand, Team PlanEATarians from Luzon developed the Sustainsia app, which gamifies the journey toward PHD into an engaging and enjoyable experience.


Launched in November 2022, the FLExPHD competition was participated in by more than 100 teams nationwide. These teams also joined a series of webinars and design thinking classes.


The top 40 teams were trimmed down to 12 after assessing their low-fidelity app prototypes. On June 28, 2023, the top 12 teams presented their high-fidelity prototypes in an app demo exhibit and pitch competition at the FLExPHD Grand Finals held at Searca in Los Baños.


DoST-Pcaarrd executive director Dr. Reynaldo Ebora urged the FLExPHD finalists to take their apps to the public to reach a wider audience.


“More can be achieved if we are working together to realize our vision—a food system that considers the well-being of the people and planet, adapts to the changing environment, and accommodates the diversity of food culture,” Ebora said.