It took a trip to New Zealand and a university elective for 21-year-old Joseph Sinclair from Melbourne to launch an app that’s been built to help you buy, swap or sell the freshest produce with your neighbours. With this initiative, he’s trying to ensure more and more people have access to healthy food and that no excess fruits or vegetables are thrown out.
Sprout is a newly-released app available for iOS users to give home-growers around Australia (and globally) the opportunity to either sell or exchange their produce with people in the neighbourhood. It’s also meant to give others a chance to buy items they may not have access to, especially those living in rural areas.
Sinclair began working on the app as a university assignment but it grew into something much bigger. But his journey to this moment started even before he cracked on with the project.
“Just before I started my iOS development elective, I’d gone to New Zealand with my girlfriend to visit her family who have this massive orchard and are mostly self-sufficient,” Sinclair told Lifehacker Australia over the phone.
“They grow everything themselves. And in their community, they use this thing called honesty boxes — you basically leave your excess produce outside your house and then people come and put in some change and take it. I thought that was a really cool system and would be even better to digitise the same concept.”
That’s how Sprout launched at the end of March and is comparable, in Sinclair’s words, to an online farmer’s market spread across the community.
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How does the Sprout app work?
The app can be downloaded via the Apple store. Unfortunately, Android users will have to wait a while longer while Sinclair runs a GoFundMe campaign to support further development on the app.
Once the app’s been installed, users can register, create a profile and list the produce they have available to give away.
You’ll also have the choice of a number of filters including fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts and seeds, and animal products if you’re looking to buy. It can further be refined to include items that are either for sale or available for free and as an added bonus, you can even filter out to find ripe or growing produce.
After all your filters have been applied, a map will launch to show ‘sprouts’ aka users who are nearby and have the produce you’re looking for. You can then direct message the user and workout a swap or purchase. Payments are made separate to the app.
Please note: It’s important to keep in mind social distancing rules and making sure contactless swaps are taking place.
When asked if there were potential personal safety concerns with an app like this, Sinclair explained why users shouldn’t be worried.
“Privacy and security is always the number one thing, especially with Apple, they do rigorous testing when you go to put your app on the App Store to make sure that it does conform to security and privacy laws. So I did make sure it was fully secure before I released it,” he said.
Sinclair explained that on a user’s profile, you would never be able to see the exact address and you don’t ever need to put your house on the location pin. All you have to do is mark the area you’re within. Instead of releasing your home address, you could choose a public location to carry out the exchange.
Promoting health and accessibility
For most of his life, Sinclair’s been focused on health and fitness, and saw many nutritionists because of his swimming goals with the Australian high performance squad.
“I’m always reading about the importance of health and how vital it is for everybody to have access to their health,” he said.
“And I think a lot of people, especially in more rural suburbs, or rural places, and the outer suburbs don’t have access to healthy foods easily which kind of impacts their lifestyle choices.
“Also, it’s generally cheaper to go and get Maccas or fish and chips than it is to, you know, buy or get an avocado on toast kind of thing. So, that also became a really big passion of mine through this app — trying to give those people access to organically grown fresh produce.”
It’s still early days for the app, which has 1800 users and growing. Lifehacker Australia used the app but unfortunately, there were no people selling in our neighbourhood. Its main source of users began in Melbourne and have now spread to Sydney and Brisbane, all up the eastern coast of Australia. Sinclair’s also seeing some interest pop up in other parts of the world including Belgium, the UK, Canada and USA.
He’s hoping to gather funds soon to develop an Android version for further accessibility. You can download Sprout at the Apple Store here.
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