Student’s app showcases local seafood

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Amanda Parks
Amanda Parks gets dressed for some fishing.

Looking for a seafood dinner that’s off-the-boat fresh? Wondering whether dogfish tastes better with butter or breadcrumbs? Thanks to senior Amanda Parks ’14 there’s an app for that.

Parks, a Meredith, N.H., native and nutrition and EcoGastronomy major, created the Local Fish Finder app to help Granite Staters find the freshest New Hampshire seafood available – and learn how to cook it. The app, only the second of its kind in the nation, was released earlier this month and is free to download on Apple or Android devices.

Local Fish Finder directs cooks and diners to a range of sources for fresh fish: grocery stores, restaurants, farmer’s markets, fish markets, community supported fisheries, and even dockside fishing boats. A species guide introduces fish lovers to a wide variety of local seafood--including so-called “underloved” but abundant species like silver hake or spiny dogfish--and offers recipe suggestions.

“I wanted to get people to see that there are more than four species that we catch here in New Hampshire, and I wanted to help people get familiar with cooking this fish,” says Parks.

Parks began developing the app nearly a year ago as her capstone project for her dual major in EcoGastronomy, a program unique to UNH that integrates sustainable agriculture and nutrition. Her paper-based project won first place for EcoGastronomy in UNH’s Undergraduate Research Conference, but she wanted to take it mobile.

With the Brian Doyle Fellowship from New Hampshire Sea Grant this summer, Parks worked alongside Sea Grant/Cooperative Extension commercial fisheries specialists Erik Chapman and Gabriela Bradt to turn her project into an app.

“Amanda has taken a good idea and turned it into an even better reality,” Chapman says. While there are many consumer guides that steer customers to sustainable seafood, he adds, “what’s less available is information about how your seafood got from point A -- the ocean -- to point B -- your plate. Amanda’s app gives consumers the power to make these decisions for themselves.”

Parks built the Local Fish Finder app using a do-it-yourself online app development tool after learning that hiring a professional developer could cost up to $15,000. “That was a quick no-go,” she says.

Local Fish Finder app screen shot

The result, she hopes, will help not just fish lovers but fishermen and the fish themselves, by shedding light on some lesser-known species like monkfish or Acadian redfish, her personal favorites.

“A lot of the fish boats are catching you can’t find in stores or restaurants. No one wants to sell it because no one wants to buy it because no one knows about it,” she says. “Maybe if people see a fish on the app that sounds delicious they’ll start asking for it.” Parks, who will graduate in December, is reaching out to other coastal communities to try to expand her app.

Parks describes herself as a dedicated foodie. She works as a cook for Flavor Concepts catering in Dover and she’s active in the UNH chapter of Slow Food USA and has worked with its offshoot Slow Fish to bring more awareness to local, sustainable fishing in New Hampshire.

“I spend all my money on food and all my time on cooking,” she says. “My friends aren’t really in the Easy Mac crowd.”