From Bait to Plate! A Blockchain Supply Chain Use Case for the Seafood Industry

Image Source: onthewater.com

Living in Southern California has many advantages. One of them is living along the West Coast. If you love seafood as I do, then you will appreciate the plethora of fish and seafood options available at a favorite seafood restaurant along the miles of coastline from Malibu to Huntington Beach.  Not only are the options for seafood restaurants in plenty of supply, but so too are the options go to bustling seafood markets in Redondo Beach, San Pedro, or Newport Beach to name a few locations. If your preference is to cook at home—then certainly you’ll find a well-supplied seafood section at the local supermarket from Albertsons to Whole Foods.

With all the choices for selecting the right market, how can you be sure that the selection of fish you are buying is what you expect, and at the right price? Is the salmon you bought really an Alaskan, wild sock eye, or is it wild-caught Atlantic? Was the yellow tail sushi you ordered really yellow tail, or was it white tuna? These are just some of the issues faced by consumers when it comes to buying fish.

As we think about all the choices and options, how often does one think about the potential for fraud in the seafood industry? The typical person is most likely unaware of the level of fraud that actually exits.  Forbes , cited a study from 2010 to 2012 by Oceana looked for the  amount of fraud in the industry. Surprisingly, as much as 33%, or a third of seafood products in the U.S. were mislabeled.

Moreover, an industry average of one-third of seafood products purchased do not actually contain what the label says, while many species of fish have a higher level of fraud. The seafood industry, is filled with stories of fraud and deception.

 

Blockchain Brings Traceability

Image Source: aws.amazon.com You can now monitor where and when your fish was caught and trace its history from the sea all the way to your plate!

How will the industry be able to restore faith and confidence to a damaged reputation?  Roger Aitken, of Forbes, says that there are companies “supporting this cause and are working hard to figure out how to clean up the fraudulent seafood industry.” Here’s where blockchain technology distributed ledger technology may come into play. The two most promising aspects of blockchain are its immutability and transparency.

Everything stored on the blockchain is there permanently. No one can alter or delete the information that is stored and everyone in the network has the ability to see this data. A white paper by Fishcoin, outlines the industry’s issue as being rooted in supply chain inefficiencies, stating that up to 50% of fish is discarded or wasted within the supply chain.

“By tracing a batch of seafood back to the point of capture, we can verify whether the seafood was legally harvested, grown or processed when cross-referenced with data, such as vessel tracking and identification, permit numbers [and] input/output data for mass balance assessment,” said Jayson Berryhill in an interview with The Economist’s World Ocean Initiative. (Cointelegraph)

Fishcoin offers the idea of applying blockchain-based traceability principles to the seafood industry. According to Fishcoin’s startup team, blockchain will help the ecosystem of fishers, fish farmers, fish processors, seafood exporters and governments—identify, verify and reward those that adopt the best practices.

Fishcoin plans to use decentralized ledger technology to link fishermen and fish farmers at the point of harvest to “global seafood supply chain actors”—including the range of distributors, processors, wholesalers and retailers. The company, says Nick Bakursky, plans to apply blockchain technology to “bring traceability to the seafood industry and create an ecosystem which could allow seafood producers and supply chain intermediaries to get rewards via microtransactions.”

Supply Chain Transparency

A central part of fixing the industry is transparency within this ecosystem. Blockchain has the potential to improve transparency of this industry by creating the ability to trace and record all the fish in the supply chain—from fishing nets to the market.

According to a report by DNV GL, “data from the ‘bait to plate’ could be stored in a publicly available blockchain,” helping to set the industry and the consumer at ease and building trust in the information on food safety, accuracy, and sustainability.

DNV GL says that blockchain can be used to record all pertinent data. This can include recording the composition of feed and water conditions for farmed fish. While wild caught fish can be tagged with recorded data about location, fishing methods, storage temperate and humidity.

Moving along the supply chain, similar data can be recorded in the blockchain from the processing plant, to transportation, to the supermarket shelf. Consumers and restaurant buyers will then be able to scan a smart label to get instant access to all the supply chain data at the point of purchase.

Conclusion

Blockchain distributed ledger technology is showing tremendous promise for supply chain traceability beyond tracing food from the farm to the table. With an industry plagued with corruption and fraud, blockchain’s ability to trace fish from the sea to the table gives the industry a path to build on.

The benefits of providing information via blockchain—go well beyond the consumer. The promise of the seafood supply chain transparency is the ability to increase the “effectiveness of audits and communication between different parts of the supply chain.”


Sources

Aitken, Roger , “Something’s ‘Fishy’ On The Blockchain, But Can This Tech Reduce Seafood Fraud?”, Forbes, August 2018.

Bakursky, Nick , “Startup to Solve Traceability Issues in Seafood Industry Via Blockchain”,  Cointelegraph, September 2018.

Løne, Cecilie , “Blockchain can revitalize trust in seafood industry by boosting transparency”, https://www.dnvgl.com/news/blockchain-can-revitalize-trust-in-seafood-industry-by-boosting-transparency-142622, March 2019.

 

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