Two junior computer science majors at the University of Maryland created their own meal planning app this year.
Pranav Dulepet and Mukund Shankar, who is also a math major, came up with the idea for agora. after bonding about not receiving enough nutrients in their meals due to dietary restrictions.
With a tagline of the “marketplace for personalized meal planning,” — a play on the word’s original translation in Greek — Dulepet and Shankar wanted agora. to reflect their very own experiences in meal planning.
The duo wanted to eat well-balanced meals and save money by cooking their own meals. From this desire, agora. was born.
“To come up with things that are nutritional, balanced, healthy, we wanted to find a way to get more creative with it rather than making the same things everyday,” Shankar said.
With the app, users can create custom meals by inputting any requirements and ingredients given in English. In addition to creating custom meals, users can also explore AI created recipes within agora.
After creating customized meals or finding recipes from others, users can store their favorite meals for easier access in the future, the creators said. The app also allows users to know what exactly it is they’re eating by calculating the amount of calories and macro content of the dish.
“When I have 20 minutes [or] half an hour to cook, and then eat, I also put in the app ‘I have twenty minutes and I have these ingredients, what can I make?’” Shankar said. “I do that, and I get out and it’s great.”
Hyattsville resident Carlos Castro discovered agora. while looking for an app to help him track calories and get recipe ideas. Castro said he enjoys the app’s ability to give him meals based on whatever amount of time he has.
In the future, Castro hopes the app will produce more meal results regardless of what the user is looking for.
“Unless you’re specifically asking for very specific things, it’ll only give you one result per search,” Castro said.
The agora. creators said users are able to directly buy meal ingredients from Amazon Fresh through the app. This feature is important to help users battle the time-consuming nature of grocery store trips, they said.
“It’s kind of a hassle to go to the grocery store every week, pick out what ingredients you want for what meals and then figure all that out,” Dulepet said. “This process makes it easier for ideating meals.”
Dulepet and Shankar began to create plans of starting this project earlier this year. After choosing their targeted audiences and what features they wanted to use in agora, they officially got to work on the project over the summer.
Moving forward, Dulepet and Shankar hope to add a paid plan to agora. While the ideas are still in development, the creators hope to foster a sense of community within their app so users can submit and compare recipes, they said.
“Instead of just having AI generated meals and recipes, we can have people who can submit their own recipes that they’ve come up with,” Dulepet said.
Despite the possible paid plan, Dulepet said any features that are currently available will continue to be free for users.