Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Bright ideas brimming at hackathon

Friday 20 Nov 2015

Connor Boyle, Gabrielle Young and Ashlyn Baum hug the trees they were awarded for their concept Treehuggers.

Connor Boyle, Gabrielle Young and Ashlyn Baum hug the trees they were awarded for their concept Treehuggers.

Three strangers have developed a web app to help landowners know how suitable their property is for bees.

The novel concept, called Airbnbee, was just one of many innovators came up with in just 24 hours at a hackathon in Wellington recently.

The Nature Hack event, held at wildlife sanctuary Zealandia, was organised by Landcare Research and Callaghan Innovation to celebrate New Zealand’s environment.

Josh Taylor said him and his team mates Tim McNamara and Fredrik Bergstrom wanted to come up with an app that solved a problem rather than just conveyed information in an interesting way.

“We wanted to make something that makes someone’s life a bit easier,” Taylor said.

That’s when the trio - armed only with information from several of Landcare Research’s nationally significant collections, their skills and imagination - came up with Airbnbee.

The web app enables landowners to find out how suitable their property is for bee hives simply by selecting their location on a map of New Zealand. The site’s suitability is then given a rating out of five stars.

“It helps them know how much their land is worth if someone is interested in paying to put their bee hives there,” Taylor said.

Taylor’s group were one of three to take out an award for their prototype.  

The win came as a surprise, Taylor said.

“You never really know the value of your idea until you get to the end and present it.”

Gabrielle Young and her team mates Ashlyn Baum and Connor Boyle also took out an award for the most novel use of the Landcare Research data for their concept TreeHugger.

Young said the app, which is in the prototype stage, turns identifying trees into a game by the user taking a selfie of themselves hugging a tree or if it’s too far blowing it a kiss.

“We created TreeHugger to encourage people to stop and take a closer look at the unique beauty of New Zealand’s native trees and appreciate them - literally,” she said.

“We really wanted to make something interactive.”

Users earn  “achievement badges” each time they upload a picture of themselves “appreciating a tree”. The aim of the game is to collect all the badges, Young said.

“It’s kind of like a scavenger hunt.”

The app aimed to make learning about tree species fun, Young said.

The group, who named themselves Nay-Chur, are discussing plans to follow through with the concept.

“It’s a simple but effective concept, and we’re looking forward to building it into a production ready app.”

Young felt it was “fitting” they were each awarded a kowhai tree.

“We went up to get our prize and suddenly all three of us were hugging trees.” Young said.

Jon Lemmon, Peter Jacobson and Iain Kirkpatrick also won an award, including the people’s choice, for their web app Fungus Time.

The app shows how different fungi and plant diseases change over time in various places around New Zealand.

“You could eventually overlay different datasets to see what comes into play,” Lemmon said.

The winners were decided by a panel of judges, including Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith.

Major prizes were provided by Air New Zealand, Icebreaker and Landcare Research.