Edamam wants to be the one place where all the food knowledge of the world is organized. That’s the goal of co-founder and CEO Victor Penev, who launched the site in April, and recently updated the several hundred major recipe sites in its knowledge base to also include some smaller blog sites that add additional variety.
Semantic technology is helping the company reach its goal. “A big problem is that data about food is very messy,” says Penev. “It’s hard to find something, what you find often contradicts other information of what is good for you and what the calories are. So we set out to solve that problem. We played around with different approaches but settled on using semantic technology.”
The confusion arises in part from the fact that recipe sites themselves usually just hire services to calculate nutritional data. But that may lead to mistakes when calculations aren’t undertaken with exactitude — substituting white cream for heavy cream nutritional details changes the whole profile of the recipe, he says.
So, what is that right semantic stuff? One piece of it is that, in conjunction with Ontotext, Edamam built a food ontology. An ontology can be the foundation for a lot of things, such as extracting the knowledge of the chemical composition of a particular recipe and thus inferring its flavor and texture. And Edamam means to grow its own to include various datasets such as chemical data (for flavor and texture), geolocation (for local and seasonal recipes), product data (for e-commerce). and more.
But initially, it’s taken the simple approach, with the core of the ontology focused around classifying ingredients, nutrients and food. “We have started with the simplest ontology and focused on the most common use case — mobile recipe search,” he says.