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Penn State Startup Week Contest Helps Launch Platform to Fight Hunger

Penn State Startup Week

Last fall, five Penn State Harrisburg students took their idea for a supply-chain management platform to the HackPSU Hackathon. After testing the idea there, they took it to the Penn State Smeal College of Business 2017 Supply Chain Entrepreneurship Pitch Contest. There, the team nabbed second place out of 26 competitors. They took this honor (and the $4,500 award that came with it), and flew to Amsterdam for the Thought for Food Global Summit.

Smeal students Howie Anderson, Michael Li, Brandon Daubenspeck, Pranav Jain, and Alex Bouril, were eager to showcase their idea at the summit, as, according to Daubenspeck, helping people access food was “the perfect application for our platform.”

The platform, NuntAgri, is a chatbot with which buyers, sellers, and distributors of food can interact. In its most recent iteration, NuntAgri enables sellers to input what they would like to sell, and buyers to text NuntAgri to peruse or purchase these orders. NuntAgri then contacts a close intermediary to transport the order. This efficient coordination allows produce and food items that would have been discarded to be picked up by volunteer drivers and taken to places like homeless shelters and food banks.

Michael li explains the platform as, “a service offered through SMS, short message service, that can revolutionize regional distribution logistics by using crowd-sourcing.”

The summit was a fruitful next step for the team, as NuntAgri’s capabilities align with Thought for Food’s goal of feeding nine billion people in the next thirty years. As of now, however, the platform is being used by Dirty Dog Hauling, a Harrisburg company that specializes in junk removal. Just as it would with food, the chatbot connects sellers, transporters, and buyers of the junk items.

“This has been an excellent experience,” Li said. “We have learned how to make connections, how to network and develop a system that will effectively manage supply and demand.”

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