Call for Code

Four Australian teams lead the 2021 Call for Code to help combat climate change

By Alison Haire, Lead Developer Advocate, Hybrid Cloud Build Team

Solving global challenges like climate change may seem never-ending, but we can draw inspiration and hope from communities that are making a difference.

The open-source movement is one such community, involving hundreds of thousands of individuals and organisations around the world. Together, they have created many of the most important digital solutions of our times – from the platforms that run most of the world’s websites to emerging technologies such as blockchain.

IBM has supported open-source communities for more than 25 years. One of many ways we’ve helped them is with our annual Call for Code challenge, where developers contribute innovative solutions to global causes.

Now in its fourth year, the 2021 initiative was particularly inspiring for me because the challenge was to help combat climate change with open-source technology. We received entries from around the globe, including many that could make a real difference.

It wasn’t easy, but our judges whittled the entries down to several outstanding finalists. And as an IBM Lead Developer Advocate who has worked closely with local developers, I was ecstatic to see that four of the Call for Code finalists were Australian. I also was pleased the see the University of Sydney awarded for its deep commitment to Call for Code.


One of two Australian entries to be selected as global finalists, Honestly is a simple but potentially powerful way to give people the real-time information they need to make ethical purchasing decisions.

It’s a browser extension that acts as an assistant through the online shopping process. It alerts users to any bad press on a brand, displays ratings from external organisations, such as the company’s carbon footprint, and provides supply chain data for a selected product, including each provider’s impact on the planet.

Honestly aggregates data from several online news sources and uses the IBM Watson Natural Language Understanding to help build a rating for each business.


Australia’s other global finalist, Plenti, is a mobile app designed to help people reduce food waste. And that, in turn, could reduce the consumption of water, energy and other resources needed for food production.

Plenti makes it easy for shoppers to enter details about their groceries by just scanning a receipt with a smartphone camera. It then alerts users when food items are about to go off.

The app uses text recognition and the Watson Natural Language Classifier to identify and categorise produce. This is cross-referenced with a database of the expiry dates of common fruits and vegetables, with the app then using an event-driven architecture powered by IBM Cloud Functions.


FarmAid is a finalist in Call for Code’s university and Asia Pacific categories. It’s designed to help smallholder farmers combat one of their biggest challenges: extreme weather events.

The FarmAid app provides hyper-local forecasts and alerts for weather events, such as floods and drought, which could damage crops. It also includes a photo analysis tool to help identify crop diseases.

The aim is to give smallholders advanced technologies that only large agricultural companies currently have access to. For example, the app will soon use IBM machine learning and Cloud Functions to give farmers tailored advice based on multiple data sources.


A finalist in the Asia Pacific category, FoodSpot is a mobile app that’s designed to help charity organisers plan and execute effective food drives.

Using IBM Watson Discovery, the app generates suggested food drive locations that target the greatest number of people, along with recommendations such as the amount of food needed.

The app also helps people in need find food drives. If an event is created through FoodSpot, these people can reserve a meal.

University of Sydney

Three of these teams comprised students directly supported by the Dalyell Program at the University of Sydney Business School. So, it was great to see the people behind this program rewarded with a 2021 Call for Code University Engagement Award.

The university is one of a select group of organizations to receive an engagement award in recognition of their deep commitment to Call for Code.

Get involved

As well as sponsoring the Call for Code, IBM also mentors participants. It’s a particularly inspirational part of my job – getting to know the teams and projects, and helping connect them with the right IBM experts and technologies to achieve their goals.

I’ve been privileged to help these Australian finalists and other local participants. It’s not a one-off thing, either. This is the second entry by the team behind Honestly and what’s been impressive is how far they’ve progressed over the past two years.

The winners of the 2021 Call for Code challenge were announced on 17th November. And while this year’s initiative is over, there’s still much work to do.

The Call for Code is always on and you can contribute in several ways. You can:

  • get started with or learn more about the latest open source technologies
  • join our community of more than 500,000 developers
  • select a project to contribute to
  • tell your story about how open source has made a difference.

I’m proud to be part of a company that is committed to two causes I believe in: open source and climate change. Earlier this year, for example, IBM announced how it will achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

We’re also helping like-minded organisations through tools such as the IBM Environmental Intelligence Suite. We are helping to define this emerging area by combining AI, climate science and weather data with business operations. The suite can help companies improve their business resilience and sustainability credentials by responding to critical weather and environmental conditions, while controlling their impact

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