Aquaculture is perhaps one of the most modern and complex farming methods. Be it farming in lakes, ponds, or artificial setups, aquaculture includes many complicated steps such as rearing bacteria for water purification and maintaining chemical composition, maintaining a perfect balance between biological and technological aspects, and much more. Thus, even the smallest and simplest aquaculture farms demand complexities that make aquaculture farming one of the most unique and unorthodox methods of farming.
Recent years have seen significant development in aquaculture and have also taught humans the know-how of the method. Aquaculture is slowly becoming prevalent as we now know what nutrition, production techniques, and maintenance are needed. Aquaculture has now reached an advanced stage and is almost to be adopted as a primary farming method by most countries.
Fish trade has come a long way from traditional fishing methods, and now, it is quickly catching up to the more efficient aquaculture revolution that involves land-based modern fishing methods. The human consumption of farmed fish has risen from only 7% in 1974 to more than a whopping 50% in 2016. This massive jump in demand has led to enormous food wastages, contaminations, environmental degradations, parasite outbreaks, and the fish trade is in acute need of a farming method that is efficient and offers maximal productivity. To address the rising demand and fishing challenges, major farming companies are now developing data-driven systems for aquaculture that help gather data about the fish farm using advanced sensors, underwater surveillance systems, hydroacoustic technology, or aerial imagery with the help of drones. These innovative systems are synchronized with satellites and other geospatial datasets that store real-time data from the fish farms over an integrated cloud platform.
The Knowledge management and digital transformation in the fisheries sector is helping resolve a few common trade-related issues, such as:
– Food Safety for Supply Chain Transparency and Fewer Recalls, save cost.
– Solution for Authenticating the brand, anticounterfeiting, product diversion and illegal production.
– Improved Sustainability and circular economy modules to enable reduction in waste, secure supplies, responsible sourcing and decrease carbon footprint.
– Reusable Packaging Management (RPM) solution can be used by brands, which allows food manufacturers to track and trace their reusable packaging from the factory to end-user and back.
Bosch IoT based startup AquaEasy combines sensors, software and services – based on analytical data collected using artificial intelligence (AI). This initiative aims to help the region’s shrimp farmers increase yield, predictability and implement sustainable aquaculture practices while reducing risks and costs. The same can be observed at many shrimp farms in Vietnam, Indonesia, and Singapore. In Singapore, Qian Hu, a local aquaculture company is striving to achieve an efficient and sustainable farming system that is in line with Singapore’s goal of attaining food security and sufficiency by 2030.
Cloud-based systems such as AquaEasy help in achieving harvest prediction, feeding optimization, water quality management and remote monitoring, thus making the pond technicians feel confident and make the right decisions timely.
In a study by Guardian they published that Seafood fraud is prevalent on a “vast global scale”, with 36% of seafood sampled in supermarkets, fishmongers and restaurants mislabelled.
Aquaculture may seem a good idea to preserve the sea life from being extinct; it may also seem efficient and relatively cheap, but a closer look at the functioning of the fishing farms will divulge the dark secret of the fishing industry. Just as chicken raised in battery cages, farmed fish are forced tail-to-mouth in tiny artificial ponds and fed human feces, corn, and soy feed, far from their natural diet. This creates a problem as the food is laden with synthetics injected to boost nutritional value. Artificial sustenance results in diminished Omega-3, protein, calcium, and iron levels in fishes, causing them to be infected with bacterial infections, and brimming with antibiotics harmful for human consumption.
Implementing a blockchain in combination with DNA testing can prove the specific species of fish and help tackle the problem of bycatch,and reduce fraud in the seafood industry.
To ensure uniformity in the level of information from start to finish, the many blockchains systems being currently used in the fishing and seafood industry need to be interoperable.
According to an FAO report, blockchain technology single-handedly cannot prevent overfishing or eliminate IUU (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing), however, will deeply modify the standards with which fish are traced.
Several countries use Aquaculture farming. China leads them all to produce a whopping 58.8 million tons of seafood, followed by India at 9.46 million tons, Indonesia at 6.10 million tons, Peru at 5.85 million tons, and the U.S. at 5.36 million tons.
It is estimated that about 20% of global seafood has been caught illegally. There are many instances where Chinese boats have been caught off guard fishing in illegal areas. So is the case for other countries that endanger species that are on the verge of extinction. These illegal fishing vessels amenably flout laws of fisheries set by the state to make some extra profit, further hampering the government’s efforts towards preserving endangered species and their natural habitat.
A UK-based traceability platform, Provenance, in the year 2016, piloted blockchain technology in yellowfin tuna loins and skipjack tuna supply chains, tracing products back to individual fishers in Indonesia. In 2018, WWF in New Zealand used blockchain in a tuna longline fishery in Fiji, while the Sustainable Shrimp Partnership in Ecuador links data from farmed shrimp to a blockchain platform run and managed by the IBM Food Trust.
Although not prevalent, data-driven traceability systems have been instrumental in constraining illegal practices in the fish trade.
Breaking down the components, the ‘Legal Framework’ rests as a base of the entire system to avert illegal fishing. At the mid lies ‘Measures at sea’ which includes the use of advanced systems such as vessel identification, vessel monitoring system (VMS), inspection, satellite imagery, and more, whereas ‘Measures at land’ comprise assessments upon landing, catch documentation, and other control and management checks.
Food quality can quickly deteriorate if the seafood isn’t transported or stored at obligatory temperatures, proper hygiene isn’t maintained or any other compulsion is overlooked. Food quality can be verified using traceability systems that enable us to carry out deep chemical and biological checks detecting antibiotics, diseases, or any other impurities that may be considered unfit for human consumption.
In regulation since January 1, 2018, the U.S. Seafood Import Monitoring Program is one of the most initial programs that make traceability a compulsion for importing food. It has been established to counter unlawful, counterfeit, and unreported seafood; it uses the International Trade Data System (ITDS) to collect data about farmed fish, such as the conditions of the farming pond, nutritional quality and quantity, antibiotic saturation and other toxins in fish. The company importing seafood into the U.S. is required to keep a traceable record of the entire food chain of fish products right from harvesting, logistics, transportation till the U.S entry checkpoint.
There are a few global certification standards like the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certification for sustainable fish that involves looking at 28 performance indicators. These are not just about data, but about practices and processes that ensure sustainable harvesting and effective labelling to remove fraud. Certifications like the MSC are robust and independently audited certifications schemes that are irreplaceable even with the advent of Blockchain and farm-to-plate traceability. In fact, these will only support and improve certification.
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