Blockchain traceability of seafood ‘risks being undermined by hype’
Blockchain has a part to perform in securing the seafood supply chain, although risks being undermined by “hyperinflated” claims perpetuated by the media, states a new report. The review by the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) states that at the moment blockchain projects lead to be led by private enterprise, only cover part of the supply chain and usually only involve a single jurisdiction, and that means the actual role of the technology persists largely untested.
There’s a clear purpose for blockchain in enhancing efficiencies and accountability when utilized for seafood traceability, state the authors, but it has shortcomings too. The technology won’t stop illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, overfishing, and discarding, for instance, but could make the supply chain more transparent and possibly help prevent food fraud and poor-quality products joining the market if used efficiently.
The current media talk that it is a magic weapon – explaining a multiple of problems such as IUU fishing, species fraud, seafood safety, and labor problems – “risks hyperinflating expectations on what this technology can offer, with potential operators then walking away because it does not deliver on the hype built around it.”
Accurately used, blockchain-driven traceability could, however, become the “substrate over which digital solutions need to operate,” states the FAO. Blockchain traceability may operate best in fisheries that deliberately aim to display their compliance to transparency – both to meet laws, policy, or customer demands – or in those that are studying for a self-controlling mechanism to promote trust amongst competitors, according to the report.
Permissioned consortium blockchains – where the network is administered by a group rather than a single entity and is only available by named participants – have the most significant potential in the current state of the technology to be compared to address seafood traceability, according to the FAO. This type of network provides data-sharing without making commercially-sensitive data publicly available. It could enable associates to get workflow capabilities, share data and resources, as well as enhance accountability and transparency.
This type of network sidesteps “concerns of high energy use and slow transaction times that public permissionless blockchains have,” states the report. There have been numerous examples of blockchain-based traceability projects in the last few years, leading to a concentration on high-value fish species such as tuna and Patagonian toothfish, and have worked to build a link in all cases between the physical and digital spheres by the usage of anchors like QR codes.