UMD Undergrads Revolutionize Meal Planning with Innovative App

Derived from the ancient Greek term for ‘marketplace,’ agora is not just an app; it’s a transformation in meal planning.
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It's no surprise that the current wave of tech innovation originates from hubs like Silicon Valley. But now, a dynamic duo of undergraduates at the University of Maryland (UMD) are showing that innovative solutions can emerge from university halls on the East Coast. Today, as third-year computer science undergrads, Pranav Dulepet (B.S. '25, computer science) and Mukund Shankar (B.S. '25, computer science) are on the brink of transforming meal planning with their innovative startup, agora.   

Derived from the ancient Greek term for ‘marketplace,’ agora is not just an app; it’s a transformation in meal planning. This state-of-the-art platform allows users to craft meal plans in harmony with their unique lifestyles, dietary needs and budget constraints. Additionally, the innovative platform acts as a communal space for food enthusiasts to exchange and discover fresh meal ideas.

While the application is compelling, the heart of agora lies in the visionary spirit of its young innovators, who aspire to bridge the gap between advanced tech and day-to-day life.

An Innate Entrepreneurial Drive

Pranav Dulepet

Growing up in the tech-centric Bay Area, Dulepet, one of agora's co-founders, honed his entrepreneurial skills from a young age, consistently using technology to address everyday challenges. Transitioning to UMD, this skill was refined, and the academic and incubator-centric environment provided him with the ideal conditions to evolve into his best self.

"After completing high school, I wanted to further cultivate my technical and entrepreneurial skill set," said Dulepet. "Hence, UMD’s computer science department’s strong focus on cutting-edge tech and research, combined with its ample resources, made it an obvious choice. During my time here, I've nurtured meaningful connections with professors, alumni and peers. Their guidance has been instrumental in my entrepreneurial journey.”

From Idea to Reality

It was within UMD's inspiring environment that Dulepet crossed paths with Mukund Shankar. Their dynamic synergy led to brainstorming sessions, resulting in the creation of unique solutions. 

"Last semester, Northrop Grumman organized a computer vision competition within the Department of Computer Science. Our team clinched first place, marking the inception of something truly promising,” shared Dulepet. “Later, when Mukund and I conceptualized agora, we tapped into the talents of team members from that initial project. Their insights were invaluable, helping us transition from merely a meal generator idea to the more comprehensive app we’ve developed today."

Nevertheless, in the journey of developing the concept into a tangible reality, there were numerous challenges, ranging from the initial stages of conceptualization to securing funding. Paradoxically, these setbacks served to ignite the determination to refine, improve and enhance the application.

"Building an app from the ground up was daunting. As we received feedback from external sources, certain individuals highlighted gaps in our approach that were truly eye-opening,” Dulepet said. “Though it was initially disheartening, this feedback served as a catalyst for us to reevaluate and adapt.” 

Future of Meal Planning

While agora presents a novel approach, Mukund Shankar, its co-founder, is already gazing into the future, envisioning its transformative potential. In his view, the platform's vision sets the stage for a culinary future that seamlessly combines innovation with a deeply personal touch.

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“I'm excited about what lies ahead for our platform and firmly believe in its potential to make an immediate impact on the lives of those who utilize it,” said Shankar. "I am firmly convinced that it will revolutionize meal planning and reshape our approach to food moving forward." 

As the digital realm continues to reshape various aspects of our daily life, innovators like Dulepet and Shankar remind us that sometimes the most profound solutions are born from personal experiences and a commitment to simplify the routine challenges of everyday life. 

Story by Samuel Malede Zewdu, CS Communications

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