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IBM Blockchain Solution Provides Seafood Traceability

By The Maritime Executive 10-17-2019 07:11:58

IBM and Raw Seafoods Inc. have started a new collaboration connecting global sourcing partners, retailers and restauranteurs through the IBM Food Trust platform to enhance seafood traceability. Built on the IBM Blockchain Platform, the initiative will start by digitizing the supply chain for scallops sourced from the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery.

Starting Thursday, a fleet of scallopers owned by Captain Danny Eilertsen of New Bedford, MA, will begin uploading data about their catch onto the platform, enabling distributors and retailers to identify exactly when and where a given lot of scallops was harvested. The platform will also track when the boat landed portside and when each scallop lot was hand graded, selected, packed and shipped to its final destination. 

This information, as well as images and video, is uploaded via satellite to a distributed ledger while still offshore. Once it is uploaded, it is then available to permissioned parties, including distributors, suppliers, retailers and their customers at point of sale. 

The technology is expected to address a number of problems including seafood fraud and mislabeling. Blockchain provides an immutable record of provenance, building confidence in the quality and freshness of the catch.

“IBM Food Trust has helped some of the world’s most respected food brands and grocers improve consumer trust, address inefficiencies, and promote supply chain integrity” said Rajendra Rao, General Manager of IBM Food Trust. “Traditionally, tracing the origin of a given food product like scallops could take days, if it was possible at all, especially for wild caught sea scallops. By reducing that time frame to a matter of seconds, we’re able to solve three of the core consumer concerns that deter them from enjoying seafood: safety, sustainability and authenticity.”

From a sustainability standpoint, the data gathered and stored on blockchain can help fishing boats source more strategically, providing boat owners a direct connection to the “last mile” in the distribution channels. 

Nearly 30 years ago, overfishing nearly drove the scallop industry to the breaking point. In subsequent years, new technologies and improved management helped the industry rebound to catch sizes of more than 50 million pounds annually, enough to make the Port of New Bedford, MA, the most valuable fishing port in the U.S. for 18 consecutive years as of 2017. 

Initial participants in the new ecosystem include Santa Monica Seafoods, one of the largest seafood distributors in the Southwest. Restaurants including TAPS Fish House and Brewery in Orange County, CA and Santa Monica Seafoods Market & Cafes will be among the first to serve scallops traced using Food Trust.

“This data will help us forge a more direct and fruitful partnership with the captains and crew that are harvesting the seafood we serve,” said Tom Hope, Director of Food & Beverage at TAPS Fish House & Brewery. “Not only will the data help us be more strategic as a business, we think customers are going to love it.”

Raw Seafoods also plans a consumer-facing app, connected directly to the FoodTrust platform, which will allow consumers to access information about their scallops directly from the menu or point of sale in the retail locations by scanning a QR code.