The seafood industry is flourishing, however, a dynamic growth always means a lot of changes and challenges to face. One of them is traceability, or rather the lack of it.
What traceability means for the seafood industry?
Not knowing where, when and how the fish was caught can make retailers, fishmongers, caterers, and restaurants go bankrupt. In the era of transparency of information and increasing customers’ awareness (and by customers, we mean not only end users - restaurants’ clients - but anyone in the supply chain), traceability is not a choice, it is a must.
What is traceability?
Long story short: traceability is the ability to trace something. While the term is not a newbie itself, it gains a whole new meaning for the seafood industry, where tracing is essential for keeping a supply chain in shape.
In food processing, which seafood can be included in, this term refers to keeping an eye on tags, barcodes and all of the steps during the product journey and the whole production process.
Why does traceability play a major role in the seafood industry?
Traceability supports not only identifying a selected type of information but also threats, dangers, and flaws. Keeping the process on track is not easy but necessary.
Let’s imagine the situation where the sea contamination in a specific area arises. The fish are in danger. Taking action is necessary in order to identify which goods (in this case: seafood) are safe and which need to be retracted. Enabling end-to-end traceability helps the seafood retailers avoid mistakes and save a lot of money. Without traceability, identifying goods by precise date, time and location are practically impossible, so all of the caught seafood needs to be recalled: this is what costs a lot.
Well-implemented traceability in the seafood industry can be used also for detecting those areas of the business that is highly profitable. Also, traceability shows which points need some necessary improvement to deliver a higher return on investment.
Traceability helps local seafood business with digital transformation and analytics that they never knew they had always needed. This is also how they can meet growing clients’ requirements and expectations, and this should matter for everyone in the supply chain, but more so for the businesses at the end of it. Consumers are paying increasingly more attention to sustainable seafood goods and want to be fully aware of what they got on their plates.
If all of the aforementioned reasons didn’t persuade you, let’s talk via statistics. Numbers speak for themselves: 47% of sushi in Los Angeles restaurants was mislabelled between 2012 and 2015, as UCLA and Loyola Marymount University research proved. More than 90% of the seafood in the US is actually imported from overseas, while only 1% is properly inspected before entering the seafood supply chain. Something “fishy” about those stats? Seafood fraud is all around us, and without traceability, recognizing it can be a fine kettle of… fish.
Also, tracking fish back to fisherman and fisheries can turn out to be impossible. Without this piece of information, you cannot be really sure about your seafood, can you?
Traceability technology implementation in the seafood industry
So, traceability is basically the future of sustainability and constant optimization of the seafood business. That move and improvement in the market are required to deliver the best quality.
Advanced and verifiable traceability technologies are what is going to revolutionize the seafood industry. With opportunities of tracking the whole product journey, it is easier to oversee possibilities and bottlenecks, but also to avoid mistakes and deliver quality everyone deserves. The growing seafood traceability startup scene is something really interesting to observe. It’s not just about transparency in the system and knowing where your food comes from, but there is much more of a business benefit than a traceability benefit. It’s a very informative data stream for a variety of stakeholders in the supply chain.
Which traceability technology features and solutions might be helpful?
According to the report Getting There from Here: A Guide for Companies Implementing Seafood Supply-Chain Traceability Technology there a few features and solutions that need be considered:
Inventory Management solutions to manage yields in various stages of processing, in real time, and trace products’ origins.
Mobile solutions to automatically capture the location and time of each step in the supply chain and automatically deliver it to the multi-tier supply chain map.
Digital data analytics tools as well as the ability to give and control access rights to the KDE (key data elements).
Data visualization solutions to reflect and analyze the gathered data.
And some more such as interoperability with other third-party technology solutions (with appropriate access-control rights, QR code, item-level traceability or integration with food safety features (such as time/temperature control and monitoring).
Implemented and developed traceability opens up a lot of possibilities - and we caught one of them like a fish. We worked closely on Pearl, a very exquisite iOS app, connecting oyster lovers with nearby places where fresh oysters are served. Foodies gave us a lot of inspiration, but also feedback on how to improve the product. We carried on this collaboration through several iterative releases and user validation throughout the development process. The app was launched in 11 cities in the US and was mentioned by NY Times or Forbes.
If you want to learn more, just drop us a line!