January 30, 2023
Garrett Oden

Crisp builds sustainable solutions at company-wide Hack Day

From seamless food bank donations to cloud computing efficiency, here are the innovative projects that came out of Crisp’s first sustainability Hack Day.

At the center of Crisp’s powerful retail data platform is a common goal: use technology to reduce global food waste. Through data-driven collaboration, retailers, suppliers, and distributors can come together to eliminate waste across the supply chain, all while maintaining a successful and profitable business.

But when it comes to sustainability, there’s no limit to the ways that technology can play a role. So at the end of last year, Crisp decided to innovate around the company’s mission through a team-wide Hack Day event. Hack Day gives employees a full working day to brainstorm, develop, and pitch an entirely new idea, working in teams that span across the Engineering, Product and Commercial organizations. 

The event offered Crisp the chance to rapidly test and build new solutions to make Crisp, and its customers, more sustainable. As Emily Spence, Crisp’s Vice President of Sustainability Partnerships, explains, “When it comes to making a real impact, we believe actions speak louder than words. Hack Day helps us explore ways to do more around our core mission and accelerate ‘people, profit, planet’ driven solutions.”

Building outside the box

But Hack Day is about more than the mission – it’s about driving bottom-up innovation and ideation. As Jeff Olchovy, Crisp’s Senior Vice President of Engineering, shares, “Hack Days give employees a seat at the table for posing new ideas for the organization, which spurs innovation across the company.” Hack Day also represents an opportunity for Crisp’s team members to step out of their comfort zones, encouraging them to think beyond the confines of their day-to-day roles.

Hackathons are meant to encourage innovation free of expectations, but Crisp’s Hack Day had an extra element: the two winning projects would be continued for development as eventual additions to the Crisp platform. Ready to build the next great Crisp solution, six teams dreamed up projects ranging from food bank data to cloud sustainability to Scope 3 emissions reporting.

The winning projects 

After spending the day scoping, designing, prototyping, and building, it was time for the teams to present their work. Crisp assembled a panel of judges, from internal executives to experts from the sustainability field, to choose the two winning projects based on their potential impact, feasibility, and originality.

Team 1: Feeding America Retail Marketplace

Food manufacturers or distribution centers often face some level of excess inventory that, if not given away, will go to waste. But suppliers or 3PLs don’t always have an easy solution for donating food to food banks. As a result, food waste piles up and food banks around the country aren’t receiving the proper donations they need to thrive—creating sizable costs for all involved.

Team 1 decided to tackle this issue by proposing the Feeding America Retail Marketplace (FARM) – a platform for food banks, suppliers, and retailers to connect and identify available inventory for food donations. The proposed solution allows 3PLs and storage facilities to post supplier products for donation, remedying costly excess inventory for brands while making it easy for food banks to locate locally available donations. 

Only so much can be done in a day, but Crisp’s product and sustainability teams are building upon this winning idea, working actively with teams at Feeding America to scope out and develop a data integration. Stay tuned for more details!

Team 3: BigQuery Cost Optimization 

Inspired to innovate around cloud sustainability, Team 3 found that Crisp could reduce its overall carbon footprint by reducing its storage and computation costs. Crisp uses BigQuery as its data warehouse of choice, so the team set out to reduce overall BigQuery storage and computation costs by 25%.

They identified solutions to tackle the problem from multiple angles, including:

  • Incremental materialization: While it sounds like a mouthful, this simply means the ability to detect and re-compute only the data sets that have changed or require updates.
  • Machine learning efficiency: Removing redundant data processing and costly computations in ML pipelines.
  • Run frequency: Getting more strategic about how often data needs to be pulled, depending on its type and source.
  • Cost awareness: Breaking down cloud computing spend by cost center to understand where Crisp can unlock more efficiencies in the future.

With these solutions in place, Team 3 uncovered company savings of more than $300,000 and 16.08 tCO₂e “carbon” per year.

Crisp is actively implementing Team 3’s project and looking for new ways to make computing more efficient. “We were able to achieve an approximate 28% reduction in our cost to run, which is pretty amazing,” Jeff notes. “Given that we’re only spending a day and a half in total on Hack Day, our team was able to reduce our carbon impact while also substantially impacting the organization’s bottom line.”

What’s Next for Hack Day?

After the success of Crisp’s inaugural Hack Day event, Crisp has more events planned in the coming year. Future Hack Days will vary in theme, allowing teams to focus on projects of their choice or other opportunities for innovation across the company. 

Interested in becoming a Crisp team member and participating in Hack Day events? Visit our Careers page to learn more.

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