23 Mobile Apps Changing the Food System
There are currently more than one billion smartphones in use across the world – and that figure is projected to double by 2015. As the use of “smart” mobile devices continues to grow, apps have become an incredibly effective way of providing information and resources to a wide audience.
An increase in smartphone use happens to coincide with the growth of a consumer demand for more sustainable food – “organic,” “locally grown,” “seasonal,” and “pesticide-free” are becoming more and more common in the vernacular of food sales. In the United States alone, annual sales of organic foods and beverages grew from US$6 billion in 2000 to US$26.7 billion in 2010. And there are nearly three times as many farmers markets in the United States today as there were in 2000.
It’s no surprise, then, that there are lots of apps for those interested in eating more healthful food, wasting less food, finding sustainable sources of seafood, or buying seasonally. These 23 apps for mobile devices and tablets are helping eaters, producers, advocates, and activists lead less wasteful and more environmentally sustainable, healthy, and delicious lives.
1. Locavore (Hevva Corp.) [FREE]
Locavore helps consumers find out what local foods are in season, and locate the closest farmers markets that provide them. The app has tons of information on individual producers in a user's area, and provides seasonal recipes to best use fresh, local ingredients.
2. HarvestMark Traceability (YottaMark, Inc.) [FREE]
The HarvestMark Traceability app allows its users to trace their fresh food back to the farm that it came from, by scanning any fruit or vegetable with the HarvestMark logo on it and pulling up the item’s information on the app. It also provides instant updates on any food recalls affecting HarvestMark produce.
3. Find Fruit (Neighborhood Fruit, LLC) [US$0.99]
For fruit that's as fresh as possible, forego the supermarket and use the Find Fruit app to locate fruit trees growing in public spaces. Users can also search fruit trees in their area according to seasonality, type, and proximity.
4. Farmstand (Mostly Brothers) [FREE]
Use the Farmstand app to search for community farmers markets in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Users can also connect with other farmers marketgoers in their area.
5. Food Community (Nommunity.com) [FREE]
With the Food Community app, consumers can search and discover local vegan, vegetarian, kosher, gluten-free, locally-grown, and organic restaurants. They can also connect and collaborate with a community of people with the same dietary choices.
6. Seasons (What Is It Production Ltd.) [US$1.99]
The Seasons app helps eaters follow the natural growing seasons of fruits and vegetables in their region. They can also search a database of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and nuts for descriptions, information on seasonality, and photos.
7. NRDC Eat Local (Smart Tools) [FREE]
The Eat Local app helps locate nearby farmers markets, and provides seasonal recipes for the ingredients found there. Users can also submit and edit information for their local and favorite farmers markets in the Eat Local database.
8. Urban Farming Assistant Starter (iHuerting) [FREE]
For those planning on growing their own vegetables at home, the Urban Farming Assistant Starter app sets reminders for when to water, fertilize, and care for plants. It also helps to find organic solutions to pests, diseases, and other gardening issues.
9. Garden Tracker (Portable Database) [US$1.99]
This app helps to plan, size, and plant a vegetable garden by creating a virtual garden to imitate a real one. The Garden Tracker app lets users track a garden’s progress with a self-designed grid that can contain indicators for categories such as “last time watered” and “when to harvest.”
10. Mother Earth News Library (Ogden Publications, Inc.) [FREE]
This virtual library of different resources from Mother Earth News includes such important tools as How to Can, the Garden Insects Guide, and the Food Gardening Guide.
11. Seafood Watch (Monterey Bay Aquarium) [FREE]
The Seafood Watch app makes sustainable choices in seafood easier. It offers recommendations along with information on optimal farming or fishing practices for sushi and seafood. It can be used at restaurants and markets to make ocean-friendly seafood choices.
12. ShopNoGMO (Jeffrey Smith) [FREE]
The ShopNoGMO app provides information on the risks and science behind Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), and how to avoid them at the grocery store. Consumers can choose from the list of non-GMO brands in 23 food categories to customize their own “favorites” list.
13. True Food (True Food Network) [FREE]
The True Food app’s Shopper’s Guide lets users know what’s in the food they buy at the supermarket. It also provides information on Genetically Modified ingredients and tips on which brands use these in their products, and which brands don’t.
14. GoPure (Puur Buy, Inc.) [FREE]
Search local restaurants with the GoPure app to find out about their sustainable practices and the quality of their food. Users can also suggest restaurants, add information, and get the inside scoop on sustainable foods at their favorite establishments.
15. Clean Plates – Healthy Restaurants (Clean Plates) [FREE]
Search or browse the Clean Plates app database to find restaurants offering vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and organic dining options. Professional reviews offer insight and suggestions for different dining experiences.
16. Wild Edibles (WinterRoot LLC) [US$7.99]
The Wild Edibles app helps to identify and provide information about the uses of wild edible plants. The app offers harvesting methods, preparation instructions and recipes, and medicinal information for foraged plants, as well as a botanical glossary for reference.
17. What’s On My Food? (Pesticide Action Network) [FREE]
Use this app to identify chemicals found on foods commonly sold at the grocery store. Search the database to find out which pesticides are the most dangerous, and for a crash course on pesticides for amateurs.
18. Non-GMO Project Shopping Guide (The Non-GMO Project) [FREE]
The Non-GMO Project offers an app that features a list of brands and products enrolled in the Project’s Product Verification Program. The app also includes tips on avoiding GMOs, and a list of GMO ingredients and crops.
19. Green Egg Shopper (Wise Banyan Tree Ltd) [$3.99]
With the Green Egg Shopper app, consumers can cut down on food waste by tracking their shopping lists. Create a list, plug in “use by” dates for perishable items, and set reminders to use those foods before expiry.
20. Leloca (Leloca LLC) [FREE]
The Leloca app offers real-time discounts for local restaurants with empty tables. Diners who use these discounts help cut down on food waste in restaurants as well as unnecessary expenses.
21. What’s Fresh? (Mobile Simplicity) [US$0.99]
The What’s Fresh? app tracks fruits and vegetables that are in season regionally. It offers a regional Freshness Calendar, and a locator to search the different parts of the country in which produce items are in season.
22. In Season (Light Year Software, LLC) [US$1.99]
The In Season app helps consumers find fresh produce that is in season regionally. It offers a guide for choosing the best fruits and vegetables at the grocery store, and provides advice on the best storage practices for each item.
23. 222 Million Tons (Pydexo) [FREE]
This app, named for the amount of food wasted globally each year (Ed. note: More recent estimates from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicate that 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted each year), helps consumers plan grocery lists and weekly menus to waste the least amount of food possible.