MylBread Takes the Cake (Ahem, Bread) at the Feeding Fair Hackathon

16 hours. Over 150 people involved. About 70 full-time hackers. And seven great ideas. This was Feeding Fair, which, to put it mildly, was a whirlwind day of creation and collaboration in the face of some very tough questions. The hackathon, which took place September 23rd at Milan Expo, addressed various specific challenges regarding malnutrition. Groups were posed with questions regarding the many faces of malnutrition: obesity, undernourishment, dietary habits, agricultural dilemmas, and nutrition sources, among others. As they worked to create physical prototypes of solutions to address their proposed challenges, there was an air of anticipation, enthusiasm and motivation, with hackers knowing the winning group would be invited to Paris to expand their work from prototype to project.


Judging the hard work by all seven groups was no easy feat, but in the end one group came out ahead. Tackling changing dietary habits, a group of ten hackers came up with the MylBread concept. The project is targeted for the German market, where nutrient dense, small batch breads of the past are being replaced by empty calorie-laden industrial breads. MylBread hopes to connect consumers to better breads through an innovative home delivery concept involving small scale producers and a link to the German bread heritage. Their presentation used all the great elements of live theatre – role-play, wit and make-shift costuming, to take on a big picture problem.


We had a chance to chat briefly with the MylBread team about their experience at Feeding Fair and their thoughts on the future of MylBread. The group was composed of ten members from Italy, England, Spain, the Czech Republic and Brazil all with diverse backgrounds: Alice Bennetts, Christian Bonjardt, Tereza Pleskaeova, Matteo Masotti, Frascesca Di Tella, Antonio Gagliardi, Elena Galli, Danilo Perozzi, Lorenzo Salmi and Leticia Janicsek.


Elena, Alice, Antonio and Leticia all joined Feeding Fair from our very own Food Innovation Program. Having participated in a number of hackathons previously, they had the veteran know-how of understanding the challenges of any hackathon. But the most difficult part? “Time constraints,” says Elena Galli, of Italy. English participant Alice Bennet agrees: “The pace – the process is meant to be rough and rapid to achieve a final idea by the end of day. But those concepts and prototypes can feel sketchy and you don’t always feel ready to build on them. Ultimately it does work and it’s the quick fire thinking that pushes you to an end result.” Throughout the day the teams were asked to think and rethink, make and remake their various solutions and prototypes to come up with the best possible final product.


Danilo Perozzi, Master’s student in Systemic Design at the Polytechnic of Turin, found out about Feeding Fair through a university Facebook group dedicated to innovation. For him, the challenges lay in working with such a large group. “During a hackathon,” he says, “the most challenging thing, at the same time the best experience for a designer, and I hope for everyone, is to work with a lot of people from completely different backgrounds. So the discussion is hard, but can also go deep into a topic.” Francesca Di Tella, from University of Bologna’s Industrial Design department agrees, “It’s finding a common ground between people who have never seen {each other} before and with different backgrounds.” Despite language barriers, approach ideas, and a topic ripe with solutions, the team, with the help of mentors and the Servis8 facilitators, broke the mold to come up with their innovative approach to dietary habit awareness and change.


Perhaps because they came from various backgrounds the group responded to different aspects of the day in diverse ways. We asked what inspired them the most about the hackathon and their responses varied. Matteo Masotti, from the University of Bologna, honed in on the pitch phase, where various ideas were presented, analyzed and either put on pause or chosen as a prototype to develop. Danilo chimes in, “From my view, the most inspiring part of the day was at lunch time and also the prototyping time. {Lunch} because we had a chance to hear about a very good project that is happening in our territory–for example ViviSostenibile, while the second one was a moment to share with the group the most wacky ideas!” Alice and Elena agree that the final presentation was a special moment. Says Alice, “The creative way each team presented their ideas {was inspiring}. It was great to see the physical prototypes, team members dressing up as insects, storytelling with real-time growing wheat and a little acting–from us!”

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As the team moves forward with their project, they are already anticipating the many exciting stages of refining a prototype. Elena knows MylBread has a chance for a future, “It’s feasible, and it would really have an impact both for the health of consumers and the survival of small bakeries.” Matteo, on the other hand, looks at the logistics of moving forward. “I think that we have to improve the prototype,” he says, “check for bugs and problems, and understand how to make this project self-sustainable.” Lorenzo Salmi, CEO of Bologna food startup Badeggs, is already anticipating getting back together as a group. With a passion of tech innovation in the future, he adds that he’s looking forward “to confirm some ideas and propose a new business with a good group.”


The response from the team was enthusiastic, about their project in particular but also about hackathons in general. Matteo shares, “This has been my first hackaton and I really enjoyed the experience and the “multidisciplinary” {aspect}. It was a smart and young environment created in the room.” Alice looks at hackathons as a way to communicate and plan for the future, “I hope to see a renewed appreciation and respect for food, with less waste, fairer prices, healthier eating and more mindful meal times.” Francesca acknowledges that this sort of collaboration is crucial if we want to plan for a better food future. “I think that collaborating with other people is the key to solve the current issues of our society,” she says. Danilo sees technology as an important tool in this collaborative effort. “I think that with the technologies of today we can have a lot more information about where our food comes from, how it is made, and people can increase their awareness.”

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Overall, when we asked MylBread group members to sum up the day, Lorenzo’s response hit the nail on the head: “Really good vibes!”

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