How Blockchain Is Bringing Transparency and Improved Efficiencies in Seafood Value Chains

How Blockchain Is Bringing Transparency and Improved Efficiencies in Seafood Value Chains

by May 19, 2020

Blockchain technology, one of the most discussed technologies of the past couple of years, is set to substantially transform the traceability landscape and stakeholder behavior along the value chain in fisheries and aquaculture, according to a new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

In a paper titled Blockchain Application in Seafood Value Chains, the FAO provides an introduction to blockchain, and explores how the technology can be used in seafood value chains by analyzing seven initiatives.

According to the study, blockchain technology, with its inherent characteristics of immutability, security, and decentralization, together with its smart contract feature, has the potential to improve efficiencies and accountabilities in seafood value chains.

When applied to supply chains, blockchain can provide a common technology layer that facilitates the exchange of key data elements to successfully trace seafood products moving through the value chain, acting as an unifying system that holds all relevant legal documentation and identification that needs to accompany fish across borders, the report says.

One of the earliest initiatives in this regard, it notes, is the 2016 six month pilot project by Project Provenance Ltd (Provenance) in Indonesia, which focused on two supply chains: yellowfin tuna loins and skipjack tuna for canning.

The project made use of the Provenance app and traditional SMS messages to allow fishers to register their catch and transfer it to suppliers both physically and digitally. Suppliers would then transfer the catch to the factory together with its digital data. The final stage involved working with a retailer and using NFC-enabled smart labels on tuna products to communicate the provenance story.

Another notable initiative highlighted by the FAO report is a 2017 project by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Australia, ConsenSys, Fijian companies Sea Quest (Fiji) Ltd and TraSeable Solutions, which saw the first application of blockchain in a tuna longline fishery.

As part of the project, each tuna was tagged with unique identifiers initially using RFID tags, and later with QR code tags. Key data about the capture event and tuna were recorded into an app. In the processing facility, at key stages along the processing line, the tuna was tracked, and key data collected. If a tuna was transformed into other products such as loins, then each of these new products was given a new identity on the blockchain and tracked separately.

The Fishcoin initiative is another noteworthy project mentioned in the study. Fishcoin touts itself as a “blockchain-based data ecosystem” backed by a stablecoin token, that incentivizes the collection of data about seafood products through the supply chain.

Other projects cited in the report include the OpenSC, WWF-Australia and BCG Digital Ventures partnership announced in early 2019, which much like the Provenance and WWF-New Zealand projects involved tagging toothfish with RFID tags on capture and recording data about the movement of the fish through the supply chain, Bumble Bee Foods and SAP Indonesia’s initiative to mark “Fair Trade”-certified yellowfin tuna announced in March 2019, and the Sustainable Shrimp Partnership (SSP), which joined the IBM Food Trust blockchain platform in May 2019 to provide transparency and traceability for its Ecuadorian farmed shrimp.

Commonality analysis of blockchain projects, Source- Blockchain Application in Seafood Value Chains, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, May 2020

Commonality analysis of blockchain projects, Source: Blockchain Application in Seafood Value Chains, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, May 2020

More than half of the world’s tuna comes from the Pacific Ocean, but, according to Bubba Cook of WWF Pacific, tuna fisheries are at a turning point.

“We have seen heavy depletion in certain stocks, like for instance the Pacific bluefin tuna which is at less than 3% of its historic biomass,” Cook told the World Economic Forum. “That should be a shocking figure for anyone that the historic stock has been depleted to the point where the tank is almost empty.”

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems, representing up to 26 million tons of fish caught annually, valued at US$10 to US$23 billion, according to the FAO.

“If we don’t improve traceability and address illegal fishing then we’re going to see continued declines in our fisheries,” said Cook.


Featured image credit: Unsplash