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UPLB team’s HEAL-PH app wins top prize at FLExPHD app development competition


The HEAL-PH mobile application, developed by Team M1R4G3 from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), emerged as the champion in the Food is Life Exemplified: Planetary Health Diet (FLExPHD) app development competition. The event was co-organized by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), the National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines (NAST PHL), and the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD).

FLExPHD was a groundbreaking initiative aimed at transforming the food system and promoting the adoption of a science-based, values-driven, plant-based diet known as the planetary health diet (PHD).

NAST PHL President Dr. Jaime Montoya expressed his enthusiasm for PHD, which not only fosters a healthy and nutritious diet, but also contributes to sustainable production and a just system for farmers and producers. Montoya emphasized the importance of leveraging emerging technologies to bridge the gap in these critical areas.

Designed to cultivate healthy eating habits inspired by PHD, the HEAL-PH app uses innovative features to assist students in making informed dietary choices. By using image recognition technology, the app accurately identifies food items and assigns health points, empowering the users to evaluate their selections.

The exceptional capabilities of HEAL-PH secured for the team a prize of P500,000, which will be used to further develop the app into a downloadable version slated for launch in October 2023.

Mr. Val Randolf Madrid, representing the six members of Team M1R4G3, expressed said, “It was really, really fun. As a tech guy, I was just very happy that we were able to run a lightweight AI model on a cellphone offline.”

FLExPHD showcased remarkable talent, with Team MAPA from Philippine Science High School-Eastern Visayas Campus (PSHS-ESV) bagging second place and P200,000 for their creation of the VICTU app. This innovative application streamlines cafeteria management to offer healthful food options.

Tying for third place were AskEdi! and Sustainsia apps, each receiving a prize of P50,000. AskEdi! by Team Ediscape from Western Visayas provides locally sourced, planet-friendly personalized meal plans delivered directly to consumers’ doorsteps. Meanwhile, Sustainsia, developed by Team PlanEATarians from Luzon, offers an engaging and enjoyable gamified experience that supports individuals in their journey towards adopting the PHD.

The FLExPHD competition, which commenced in November 2022, garnered participation from over 100 teams nationwide. Teams underwent a series of webinars and design thinking classes, leading to the selection of the top 12 teams who presented their high-fidelity prototypes at the FLExPHD Grand Finals, held at SEARCA on 28 June 2023.

SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn Gregorio commended the impressive demonstration of the various FLExPHD apps, which effectively promote healthful food choices.

“Every 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,” Gregorio said.

He emphasized that individual choices have a collective consequence, making FLExPHD a celebration of innovation in facilitating PHD-compatible food selections through mobile applications.

Dr. Reynaldo Ebora, Executive Director of DOST-PCAARRD, urged the FLExPHD finalists to make their apps accessible to the public, thereby reaching a wider audience.

Ebora stressed the importance of collaborative efforts in realizing the vision of a food system that prioritizes the well-being of people and the planet, adapts to environmental changes, and embraces the diversity of food culture.

Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture