Alex, May and Nitya met at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and became fast friends. After four years, they decided they wanted to do something fun and exciting to mark their time together, and when they heard about the Shell Ideas360 competition, they knew they had to enter. “We thought what better way to do it than to join a competition. And we really didn't expect ourselves to go so far.”

As it happens, they went on to win it. Their idea was simple, but ground-breaking: an app that aims to reduce the 1.3 billion tonnes of food wasted each year. Called Food Basket, the app allows people to track expiry dates on their groceries and suggests recipes for the items close to their expiry date.  

We wanted to focus on what we could do to save food,” Alex explained. “As much as a third of the food that is produced globally goes to waste every year. Throwing out the equivalent of just six meals a week could cost the average household $1,500 a year. We worked out that if we could save a quarter of this from going to waste, we could potentially feed all 870 million people who are hungry in the world today.”

Although they all agree the best moment was hearing their names announced as winners of Shell Ideas360, the entire process provided plenty of memorable experiences. May recalls travelling to Amsterdam as particularly exciting, her first time in Europe, and they all enjoyed meeting the other teams and sharing ideas. They also have a lot of respect and appreciation for Adam Healy, a Fuels Scientist based in London, as well as Gerald Foo, General Manager – Asia Pacific of Shell Global Solutions, who were their mentors during the competition. “Their advice and thoughts on our idea were invaluable and instrumental in our success,” Nitya said.

Team Renaissance showing off their winning innovation. From left to right: Nitya Anthony, May Lim, and Alex Chen
Team Renaissance showing off their winning innovation. From left to right: Nitya Anthony, May Lim, and Alex Chen

However, winning a competition like this doesn’t happen by accident, and the team shared some challenging times. “I believe the passion we shared really got us through all the difficulties and stress. We agreed that we had a great idea and knew that all the extra hours and effort would be worth it in the end,” May added.

Their advice to other students would be to take small steps but dream big. “The competition spans over eight months - a time when you also have a lot of course work and studying to do at university. With a good team, everyone is there for each other through thick and thin,” Alex said. 

Nitya added: “Don’t be shy to seek mentorship and advice. Mentors can come from anywhere - family members, your professors at university and your friends. Share your idea with people you trust - their insights may be really helpful.”

Alex, May and Nitya will all graduate in December 2015 with MSc (Technology Management) and BEngSc dual degrees. Alex majors in Civil Engineering, while May and Nitya both major in Computer Science. 

They all agree that Shell Ideas360 was a truly rewarding experience. “Shell Ideas360 challenged our creativity and thoughts, pushing us beyond what we could ever imagine. We’re so proud of how far we have come as a team and we are looking forward to see our project develop further in the coming months,” May said.

They are also looking forward to the National Geographic Adventure they won. In March 2016 they will go to northern Sweden for 10 days where they will be living it up in an ice hotel and experience dog-sledding and reindeer-sledding. For three students from a tropical country, a wintery holiday on the other side of the world is an opportunity of a lifetime.