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What is the value of seafood traceability and blockchain technology?

autoreBy Steve Williamson 23 Nov 2016

Seafood traceability from net to plate

In a globalized world where the supply chain for almost every consumer good resembles a tangled knot rather than a simple set of clear links, alarms are going off. There is simply too much that can go wrong.

In the seafood industry, the threats seem to come from every direction. There is the shocking reality of slave labour, the danger of food borne illness, the consequences of overfishing, underreporting and mislabeling, and too many other thinly veiled hazards to name. 

It seems the mightiest weapon against it all is seafood traceability. It is a tall order — keeping track, transparently, from one end to the other. Visibility from net to plate. But with gains in technology, it seems true traceability is nigh, and Gfresh is proud to be at the front lines.

A long and blind-y road

Seafood traceability traditionally consists of stamps, labels, and blind trust in a congested system that is easy to meddle with. An end buyer has to rely on the integrity of a supplier on the other side of the world with whom they will never come into contact, and vice versa. 

With old models of traceability, both buyer and supplier have to trust that all the links in the chain (or knots in the string) are doing their part and telling the truth. The players rely on a centralized data management system that is bureaucratic at best and downright dubious at worst.

Gfresh’s own take on traceability

The seafood industry needs a traceability system that can undergo scrutiny. Demand from consumers coupled with tightened government controls requires it. Gfresh empowers both supplier and end buyer, and having a reliable method through which to track a product’s route is the only way forward. That’s why Gfresh has devised its own system that puts traceability directly in the hands of the exporters and importers.

For buyers and sellers using the Gfresh platform, traceability is the new norm. It works like this: a seller using Gfresh sets their own minimum order quantity. Once that order is met — by intervals as small as one box at a time — they document their goods, package their products, and send the shipment to China and Hong Kong.

Further down the line

Instead of the seller being powerless from that point on, Gfresh’s traceability technology allows them to see if their products are arriving as packaged and going where promised. Once the order arrives in China, Gfresh has the fastest custom clearance possible, thanks to it's agreement with the China Certification and Inspection Group (CCIC).

With Gfresh’s own fleet of refrigerated trucks, the company then delivers the product. On the other end of the transaction, the buyer benefits, too. Importers can see from where in the world their product came, the name and certification of the seller, and how to contact them if something has gone wrong. Instead of getting lost in the mix of a wholesale seafood marketplace, a buyer knows exactly where his supply originates.

Gfresh’s method is to video record the opening of the products to determine mortality and shrinkage rates. This simple but effective method provides transparency to both the buyer and seller.

With Gfresh’s technology, both buyer and seller also know how long it has taken to get from one to the other. Each step is documented, and the information is available in real time for both the supplier and buyer. Both importers and exporters can examine videos of the goods’ condition and see how it was handled during freight. 

Blockchain Technology

Another up and coming method for seafood traceability is blockchain technology, a modernized digital system that is making sweeping changes. Originally developed to use for Bitcoin transactions, blockchain technology has been picked up by several other industries. Especially those of a more fragile nature, like the seafood industry. 

A blockchain system allows users to make and share a digital ledger for transactions. Entries, or “blocks”, are created by users, and sent to a data bank where those permitted can access the information. Once a block is added, it’s very difficult to alter, and all without the need for a central authority. 

In the case of the seafood industry, data can be accessed from both supplier and buyer. With blockchain software, every step of the supply system is digital, visible, and obtainable. And whether industries use blockchain technology specifically or have created their own systems inspired by it, like Gfresh has done, traceability has entered a new era.

Benefits abound

Whether it’s Gfresh’s platform, or blockchain technology, the benefits to using traceable methods are wide ranging, especially in the seafood industry. If there are problems of any kind, it becomes easy to identify where in the supply chain things went awry. There is the reduction of waste, increased responsibility, improved food safety, and the slow but sure elimination of illegal fishing and the dangers that come along with it.

The seafood industry is growing at incredible rates, especially in markets in China. In conjunction, the global food traceability market will grow 9.88% annually through 2018, according to a newly released Global Food Traceability Report. In other words, it is worth the investment.

Continued commitment 

Gfresh understands the nuances of the seafood industry and is committed to building a better model that is simply not easy to take advantage of. Earlier this year, for example, the company signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA)

The GAA works to ensure suppliers are using responsible farming practices, enforcing biodiversity protection, abiding by effluent limits, guaranteeing worker safety and adhering to strict controls on chemical use. If a supplier passes the strict requirements, it can earn a Best Aquaculture Practices designation, which showcases their guarantee of ethical fishing practices.

Accountability

With improved traceability, accountability follows. Gfresh is doing its part to ensure that the supply chain of seafood is approached with sustainability and ethical practices in mind. In addition to using traceability technology, Gfresh is making gains in efficiency as well. You can now search, compare and book airfreight instantly through the Gfresh app (currently in Beta mode).

Gfresh’s partnership with GAA demonstrates a commitment to ensuring food, worker and environmental safety, all while creating opportunities for ethical suppliers reach new markets. And the company’s dedication to traceability is the unifying factor that can keep the industry running smoothly. It is the way of the future.

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