Digitisation in Fisheries and Agriculture

The world is going digital, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Traditional industries such as agriculture and fisheries may be more resistant to change than others but these are the industries that stand to gain substantially from going digital – digitisation.

What is digitisation?

When we talk about digitising agriculture and fisheries, we are talking about making the switch from paper based to computer and cloud based systems. Paper-based systems dominate fisheries and agriculture in Small Island Developing States (SIDS), these systems have stood the test of time but as markets move on and evolve paper-based systems have become increasingly cumbersome and tedious.

Convenience is King and data is money.

Fisheries and agriculture require on-going protection and management if they are to continue being productive. Good management systems run on facts and figures, data in – information out. Utilising the latest technology allows managers to make informed decisions.

The Pacific Community (SPC)’s OnBoard and Tails serve data entry applications (eReporting) for longline logsheets off commercial longline vessels and artisanal tuna fishers, respectively. Since its launch in May 2018 OnBoard’s use has grown with more than a hundred trips being reported electronically, data is processed and analysed faster, and is often more accurate.

iFIMS (integrated Fisheries Information and Management System) is used by the PNA (Parties to the Nauru Agreement) for electronic logsheets on purse seine and long line vessels, report observer data, and administer the Vessel Day Scheme.

There is even a solution for waste management – FINNZ, combine levy collection and management functionality with data management tools in order to implement and manage waste minimisation initiatives. These solutions are currently being used by national government and public sector in Australia and New Zealand.

In Africa, agricultural value chains are being digitised. Cash payments are being swapped for digital, allowing direct access between consumers, farmers, and middlemen – saving time, money, and effort as farmers no longer have to travel as far to receive payments or place orders. Precision farming utilises a wealth of data to improve the efficiency of farms by letting farmers know when the ideal time to apply inputs such as water, nutrients and seeds for the best outcomes, and what the status of the soil is.

However, going digital is not without its cons. Below we’ve tried to list the pros and cons and maybe its bias talking but digital seems to be winning.

Pros Cons
Speed (input) Speed (initially staff would need training on the new system)
Speed (analysis)
Speed (output) Battery on mobile devices
Accuracy (no typos, no illegible handwriting, all responses are standardised) Input options (digital may only allow a few pre programmed inputs)
Real-time data Requires a smart device (e.g. tablet)
Faster processing Requires internet/connectivity
Regulations – digital audit trails allows your company to know who edited what, when. Helping you to keep your company compliant with regulations and privacy legislation. e.g. GDPR rules and regulations Costs ($$) initial and maintenance
Market access – more reliability, transparency, and traceability from your company means new clients gain an added sense of trust
Quick and easy to update/upgrade
Data volume – hold more data,
Security (reduce security breaches from lost, stolen, or missing documents)
Future proofing – the world is going digital, being adverse to going digital is just delaying the inevitable
Aligns with Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 8, 9, 14,

August – The start to the rest of the world.

August was a pretty busy month for TraSeable. Apart from our usual efforts to transform and provide traceability solutions to stakeholders here in Fiji, we have begun work on another WWF-NZ project. If you missed out on our initial project with WWF-NZ and want to learn more here is the project report by our colleague at WWF-NZ, Bubba Cook.

This time round, the project sees us partnering with WWF- NZ, Sea Quest (Fiji) Ltd. , Sea Land Processors Ltd., Solander (Pacific) Ltd. and Viant/ConsenSys as well as distributors and markets in New Zealand to introduce ‘Blockchain Traced’ Tuna to the New Zealand market.

Three boats are to be outfitted with re-usable tags and tablets to capture data for each fish hauled on-board.  After landing and processing, and of course subsequent data capturing, fish will be dispatched to New Zealand, where key data elements will be captured, hopefully up until the consumer. This will be our first full scale trial of providing traceability past the processing facility here in Fiji.

Murphy’s law – of course no project is complete without a hick-up. We were off to a shaky start because for some reason by the time funds arrived a few components were sold out here in Fiji. But we didn’t let that stop us, a quick work-around and re-arrangement of plans and we were off to a successful start which included a number of crew and staff training .

August also brought us the opportunity to meet with, and discuss our solution with prospective future collaborators from all over, including Germany, Canada, New Zealand, USA, Venezuela and Panama.  It will take time, but we will let you know once fruition takes place.

The last few days of August brought us another opportunity to meet the world. This time Asia, in the form of the Asian Seafood EXPO, in Wanchai Hongkong. Although, in this case we are not directly involved, we were honoured by  Sea Quest (Fiji) Ltd., who have sent Yellowfin loins to the Expo with our traceability solution attached.

The Expo isn’t until the first few days of September so keep an eye out for our next post to find out how it went as well as for an update on the New Zealand project.

Solander Crew Training – Steven showing where best to tag fish
Sea Quest Crew Training – Crew practice using the TraSeable App
Sea Quest Crew Training – Ken explaining the TraSeable App for data collections

 

Observer trip onboard FV Seaquence

Last month one of our team members – Steven Lee – went onboard the FV Seaquence for a 19 day trip from 12th–30th March to observe longline fishing firsthand and learn how integrate tagging into the crew’s operation.

Here is a brief account of his trip:

We departed the Muaiwalu Wharf around 2250 h after loading provisions for 13 crew and 20 days of fishing. According to the Captain conditions closer to Fiji’s main islands weren’t ideal for fishing our target species – Albacore and Yellowfin tuna – so we steamed straight to the one spot with reasonable conditions. This spot happened to be 12nm from the Fiji-Tonga border.

It took roughly 36 hrs to steam to our first fishing ground, the crew spent the first day onboard making branch lines and untangling this big mess of mainline from the last trip. One of the deckhands had a speaker which would constantly be blasting a mix of dancehall, reggaeton, Celine Dion, and Fijian church hymns (all in the same playlist) while the boys worked on-deck. I thought this was grand for the first few days, once day four came I realised it was the only music they had and I’d have to listen to it every.single.day. for another two and a half weeks. Needless to say this trip tested my mental stability.

Day three we started fishing.

A typical day of fishing went like this:

0500–1000 hrs: Setting the line. This involved baiting hooks, attaching branch and float lines to the mainline and casting it out.

1000–1600 hrs: Crew rest

1600–0300 hrs: Hauling the mainline. The haul commences by locating the end of the line by homing in on the attached radio beacon. The line is tied to the small amount of line remaining on the reel and wound in. The general idea of hauling is to remove all appendages (branch lines, float lines, and radio buoys) from the main line without slowing down the winding process. The work is dangerous. The man unclipping the branch lines risks having his hands injured in the block while unclipping as the line rapidly passes through, as well as the danger from flinging hooks and jellyfish that come up on the line.

Hauling the entire line would take roughly 10 h if everything went smoothly.
Things never went smoothly.
During every haul the mainline would snap multiple times, which required the crew to search for the next buoy and haul the line in sections until you had the entire length of the line that had snapped off onboard and had reattached the remaining mainline.

The crew worked in shifts and would constantly rotate to give everyone a bit of a rest. However way you frame it longline fishing is a tough job, and the trip definitely gave me new found respect for these guys. There is a lot of work that goes into getting that tuna onto your plate.

My job was to report on the fishing operation, and workout how to integrate tagging and data collection into their workflows. The solution may seem obvious and indeed that is what we though, until first hand experience on a boat injected a healthy dose of reality into our idyllic plans. What is proving to be difficult is dealing with multiple fish onboard in a short space of time, and how to keep track of them before tagging, what data to collect and how, and how can we do all this without slowing the crew down to a point where it affects their fishing operation or becomes a distraction that may put crew and the boat at risk.

On a personal note, I generally enjoyed the trip – real character building stuff and I’ve came home with a few good stories too, food was good, crew were a friendly bunch and all had their own little personality quirks (the Chief Mate was straight out of a Popeye comic) which were funny to pick up on. So, before I sign off I’d just like to say a big vinaka vakalevu to all the crew onboard the Seaquence for making the trip a very enjoyable experience and SeaQuest for allowing me on one of their boats!

Img1
Waqa casting a baited branch line during setting/shooting. Photo: Steven Lee
Img2
Hauling around golden hour. Photo: Steven Lee
Img3
Yellowfin tuna about to be landed on the foam pad – the pad is there to prevent any unnecessary damage to the fish. Photo: Steven Lee
Img4
Yellowfin, tagged and ready to be bagged. While albacore and bigeye tend to be spread out along the mainline, yellowfin tend to come all at once. Photo: Steven Lee
Img5
Peni on the look out for a float after the mainline snapped. Photo: Steven Lee

 

Bula, we’re finally operational!

Having gone through the many small hurdles for registering a business in Fiji we’re very excited to be operational now!

Our blog will be the best place to keep informed on what we’re doing and our insights on the industry and the technologies shaping it.

So, why a traceability startup?

Very simply – the seafood traceability space is ripe for disruption through technology innovation.

There are so many exciting technological advances now that when combined have the potential to make things previously impossible, now possible.  Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are just a few technologies that are now being applied to multiple domains.

So, why not seafood traceability?

Within the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) there are many worthy regional and national initiatives being taken to address different fisheries management issues.  Lead regional agencies include the likes of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Pacific Community (SPC), the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA).  And they are supported by national fisheries administrations.

While these agencies are doing an admirable job with the resources they have, together with their own domains of expertise including the application of ICT to fisheries, they can’t be expected to solve all the problems for everyone in our region.

It’s just not going to happen.

We strongly believe in working actively and collaboratively to find solutions to fisheries challenges in our region and we’re focusing on seafood traceability, for several reasons:

  1. Market demand – fish export markets are demanding non Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fish and proving traceability is essential.  The EU market has been demanding this for some time and on January 1, 2018 the US Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) comes into effect.
  2. Regulators are struggling – the current national systems of verifying and validating fishing catch and determining traceability are too long, paper-intensive, and fraught with numerous other challenges that make them almost ineffective.  This is a significant risk, especially for countries exporting to the EU if they cannot prove their traceability systems and processes work.
  3. Too many labour-intensive paper-based processes – despite a lot of good work recently in the region within in this space, there is still too much reliance on fisheries data recorded on paper and not enough effort to leverage electronic data and systems.
  4. Expectations of different stakeholders are not being met – it is not uncommon for regulators to think the fishing companies are always trying to sneak one by them and the fishing companies to think that regulators want to get access to all their information.  This is where an independent technical solutions provider like us fits in to work with all parties.
  5. Interoperability of existing systems – there are numerous electronic systems collecting different aspects of fisheries data but many of these are not interoperable. Work on standards for different fisheries data is being progressed by regional fisheries agencies which should help with interoperability but there is no timeframe set to see any type of concrete standards in place.  Here’s a good article from the Journal of Food Science on the Current Barriers to Large-scale Interoperability of Traceability Technology in the Seafood Sector.
  6. No collaborative electronic traceability solutions – there is no electronic traceability solution built from the ground up to cater specifically for seafood traceability in the Pacific that allows all actors along the seafood supply chain to participate in.

We believe we have a simple solution to these.

Who are we?

Our founders, Ken and Shauna, are a husband and wife team with over a decade of combined Pacific regional experience in ICT and fisheries.  Both are Pacific Islanders, Ken from Fiji and Shauna from Samoa.

Until recently, Ken was the Manager IT at FFA in Honiara, Solomon Islands where he served 5.5 years and Shauna was a Compliance Officer with Samoa Fisheries.  They both now reside in Suva, Fiji where the company is based.

As TraSeable Solutions grows as a company, we intend to employ more Pacific Islanders who are interested in technology and fisheries.  Our first jobs have been advertised and we look forward to getting more people onboard in the near future.

What are we doing now?

MVP

We’re coming to the end of our Minimum Viable Product (MVP) build and will be going into trials in December 2017 with stakeholders who have been involved in the development of our solution.  The trials will help refine our product further and we expect this to take up to 3 months before we release our product.

Engaging Partners

As a startup, we’ve been heavily involved in building relationships with other local companies with whom we can collaborate with.

Our local stakeholders include several fishing companies and fish processors and we have also engaged with the Ministry of Fisheries and the Ministry of Health Competent Authority (CA).

Blockchain Technology

Our founder, Ken, is also consulting on an exciting local project on seafood traceability using blockchain technology with international partners.  This is a first in the region and more on this will be made public soon.

We were also very lucky to be invited to the Hack4Climate hackathon in Bonn, Germany which brought together 100 blockchain developers and climate experts to develop innovative solutions to climate change challenges using blockchain technology.  Ken and his “evoke” team were placed in the Top 5 solutions at the hackathon and “won” the chance to make their solution pitch at the Talanoa space at COP23Video of #Hack4Climate winners pitch

What’s next?

Look out for our next post on the application of blockchain technology to fisheries.