Blockchain could boost the transparency of the aquaculture sector by providing a means to trace and record the entire fish supply chain. According to a new report by DNV GL and Deloitte, data from the ‘bait to plate’ could be stored in a publicly available blockchain, which will help to appease public, industry and consumer concerns about sustainability and food safety.
However, to achieve the complete data trail, significant barriers must be overcome, such as commonly low degrees of digital maturity and some key player’s reluctance to share information.
A third of global fish stocks are overexploited. In addition, some aquaculture operations pollute the environment and produce substandard products. These factors coincide to create substantial reputational challenges for the sector as a whole and for individual companies. Blockchain could offer a way of improving confidence in the industry and its products. As a decentralized database that is based on well-established cryptographic principles that allow for the recording of unalterable transactions logs, it may serve to create transparency and establish trust in sustainable fishing sources and practices.
Benefits beyond consumer trust
Take a box of supermarket sushi as an example. If the fish was produced on a farm, the owner could upload information about the farm itself, e.g. a code of conduct, or information about people and fish welfare. The blockchain could also be used to record the composition of the feed and water conditions. Fish caught at sea could be tagged with the location of the trawler and the fishing method, storage conditions (temperate, humidity) could also be logged. Similar information could then be collated in the processing plant and transportation to the supermarket shelf. At the point of purchase, the consumer would be able to scan a smart label and get instant access to this information.
The potential benefits of making data available on a blockchain go beyond the consumer. The transparency of the supply chain increases the effectiveness of audits and communication between different parts of the supply chain. Financial institutions and insurance companies will get a much clearer insight into operations and will therefore be able to tailor their products accordingly; public administrations would be able to improve their license management and monitoring.
Traceable data sharing is key to build trust
The authors of the study conducted interviews with stakeholders across the whole supply chain and found several barriers to the uptake of blockchain. There is already extensive record keeping but traceability data has not been prioritized and companies are often reluctant to share that information. Currently, it is often kept in siloed legacy systems. The business case is not yet clear enough for companies to make the investment, and the potential value of data in a blockchain is not fully understood.
Luca Crisciotti, CEO – Business Assurance at DNV GL said, “Blockchain technology is already emerging as a key element in bridging trust gaps within value chains and towards consumers. The components of a working ecosystem already exist. There is a clear demand from consumers and other key stakeholders for transparency to build trust in seafood value chains and products. Reputable seafood companies able to come together, removing hurdles such as on data-sharing and interoperability, for example, have much to gain as this will address operational inefficiencies and build validated trust into their products.”
Deloitte and DNV GL partnership
The partnership between Deloitte and DNV GL has already led to the first live blockchain solution in the certification industry in 2017 – resulting in increased customer trust.
“Both DNV GL and Deloitte are companies with the ambition, capability and scale to deploy digital solutions to enhance trust amongst stakeholders across the globe. We are happy to continue our journey together and finding new ways to contribute to the ongoing digitalization of the offshore and marine industry, and increasing transparency, trust and efficiency,” says Martin Bryn, partner at Deloitte.