Last updated: 19 Oct, 2020
Published on: 12 Oct, 2020
Pet lovers come together to reimagine the future for pets
Imagine a world where all Australian pets were kept safe. It could look like an app that helps reunite lost or wandering pets with their families, or perhaps using facial recognition and machine learning to help empower communities...
And what if we told you that this could remove a reality where an estimated 100,000* healthy and adoptable pets are killed in pounds every year?
Thanks to an incredibly skilled community of innovators joining PetRescue and Google in this mission to disrupt the animal welfare sector, the outcome for Australian pets has never looked more promising 💖
The first half of September was abuzz with excitement as 100+ talented individuals from across the country came together for a virtual Hackathon, hosted by PetRescue and Google Australia.
What is a Hackathon
A “hackathon” (an amalgamation of the words hacking and marathon) refers to constructive problem-solving using new and innovative solutions. Typically, a hackathon is a two-three day creative and intensive competition where a diverse group of people solve problems using technology as an enabler.
In the veins of a traditional Hackathon, skilled professionals from various sectors were teamed up at PetHack 2020, with a goal to find new, disruptive ideas that can redefine the future for Australian rescue pets.
Everyone is all smiles at PetHack 2020!
27 teams were put to the challenge of saving a 100,000 lives 💪
As part of not one, but two events that took place during the second week of September, teams from different backgrounds were formed and broke out in their individual virtual rooms, and put on their innovation hats to tackle some of the following problem spaces:
How can we stem the flow of pets from going into pounds that don’t keep them safe?
How can we reunite lost pets with their owners?
Can we bypass the pound system to send pets to their owners directly?
Can we prevent stray cats from entering pound facilities?
How can animal management be more transparent creating better outcomes for pets?
A lot of participants found themselves surprised at what they learned about the state of things during the event, and had their perceptions and ideas challenged with access to incredible mentors and experts that we were fortunate to have join us from all around the world.
Teams worked together on their proof of concepts and prototypes, submitting their pitches to save lives to conclude the events. The team pitches were reviewed and assessed by an incredible panel of judges who helped to identify the winning ideas to be pursued further.
We are currently reviewing prototypes and are excited to work in collaboration with the winning teams to bring some of these exciting pitches to life!
There were 5 winning teams across the two events.
Event 1 - The Big Ideas Session
🏆 Joint 1st place winners:
Team - 9 Lives - Chips Away:
The pitch: 9 lives proposed a unique approach to microchip lookup and notifications for their chosen theme
Team - ‘The Phantoms’
The pitch: The Phantoms pitched a ‘Lost and Found’ section on the PetRescue website to help lost pets reunite with their owners.
🏆 Runner up - The Baha Men
The pitch: The Baha Men came up with the idea to help lost pets reconnect with their owners and help stray cats be identified using image recognition and machine learning for their chosen theme to help more lost pets get home safely and bypass the pound system.
Event 2 - Weekend Hackathon
🏆 Winner - The Kitty Coders
The pitch: Team Kitty Coders proposed the idea for a unique ‘Smart trap’ that collects data, catches only un-chipped cats, and streams video to a social platform that will promote and fund the trap’s use in the community for their chosen theme - Help Urban Stray Cats
🏆 Runner Up - Team Pawwow
The pitch: Team Pawwow proposed 'Google pets'- an interesting idea of helping lost pets find their owners using Google maps for their chosen theme: Get pets home, keep pets home.
Qualified mentors from various sectors (and timezones!) brought in their wealth of knowledge and expertise to help our participants stay on track and blueprint their ideas. Curious about who these superstars were? Click through and meet our mentors!
And an incredible judging panel 💪
With years of experience in their fields, we were extremely lucky to have innovative, creative, and entrepreneurial minds on our judging panel including Richard Hocking (Agency Lead- Google), Nerissa Penfold (Head of Media Partnerships - Google), Dominic Pym, (Co-founder - Up Banking), Anson Parker (Head of Product - Up Banking), Lucinda Burtt (Product Design Manager- Facebook), Lodewijk de Graauw (Head of Portfolio Operations - Freshstream)
We also had leading animal welfare experts including Dr Tim Adams BVSc (Hons) MBA (Business Development Manager - Guide Dogs Victoria), Nell Thompson (G2Z Program, Animal Shelter, Welfare and Management Consultant) Abbie Moore (the Chief Product Officer and Chief Operating Officer - Adopt-a-Pet.com), and Mia Cobb (Animal welfare science researcher & consultant) and and last but not the least, Vix, JB, and Matt from the PetRescue team 💚
Our brilliant judging panel helped us find the gold in all of the pitches and form working groups to pursue as part of our mission to create happiness and save lives!
And these weren't the only winners!
Thanks to our AWESOME partner Mars Petcare who generously donated teams winning the first and second prize got the opportunity to give back to the rescue community with $10,000 in prize donations. 15 rescue organisations who put their hat in the ring for the prize donations were shortlisted for winning teams to choose from 💚 Meet the lucky PetRescue members who walked away with the final prize donations 🎉
How Hackathons can help us achieve our goals to reimagine and redefine the system for pets
Community expectations for the care and wellbeing of homeless pets have completely changed in the last 25 years, but legislation and an outdated animal management system have not.
While PetRescue member rescue organisations do an incredible job of filling in the gap and saving at-risk pets from council pounds, this often comes at a cost to their own livelihoods. And most just don’t have the capacity to take in another 100,000 pets...
Which is why it’s time to shake things up and look at the entire system with fresh eyes and a new perspective.
Read more about our mission to hack into a safer future for pets 💻
*Estimated annual figures based on research from sources across Australia. Not all pets are currently accounted for.
Source: Rand, Jacquie & Mortlock, Miranda. (2013). The Unwanted Dog and Cat Problem in Australia An estimation of pound and shelter admissions and outcomes.