Fishcoin incentivizing blockchain-based traceability in developing nations

Published on
September 5, 2018

A new initiative called “Fishcoin” could be the key to incentivizing data collection by fishers and fish farmers in developing nations. 

The brainchild of Singapore's Eachmile Technologies, Fishcoin is a new way to give seafood harvesters in developing nations an incentive to collect data on their catch. Utilizing blockchain technology, Fishcoin will give fishermen tokens for topping up their mobile phone data plans in exchange for collecting and submitting information on their catch.

The motivation behind the initiative is to gather more data in areas where the industry largely doesn’t have any way to increase the efficiency and sustainability of fisheries, according to Eachmile partner Alistair Douglas, who spoke during a presentation at Seafood Expo Asia 2018 this week.

“A major issue for seafood supply chains is a distinct lack of data,” Douglas said.

With more than 12,000 different species spread over an industry that by some estimates provides the livelihood for one in 10 people in the world, collecting accurate data in an efficient cost-effective way has been difficult. A piece of the puzzle that has been missing, Douglas said, is incentivizing the harvesters to collect accurate data. While many buyers and retailers can get added value out of traceability, oftentimes the start of the supply chain misses out despite being the ones that put in the majority of the work. 

“Why on earth are they going to take the extra effort to key in that data?” said Jayson Berryhill of Eachmile. With no benefit to be gained, adding extra effort for traceability can be a difficult proposition, especially in cases where that traceability comes at a price. 

Fishcoin presents a solution to the problem, Berryhill said. Eachmile, in collaboration with the GSMA – an international organization representing more than 750 mobile phone operators worldwide – has developed a way to give fishers, and fish farmers a “top-up” on their pre-paid mobile data plans in exchange for collecting data on their supply.

Data plans, said Berryhill, are one of the few universal commodities that fishers and fish farmers in developing nations have. In many regions, something like cryptocurrency or a bank transfer is effectively useless, as they often don’t have bank accounts or any way to use the currency in the first place. What they do have, however, is mobile phones. 

“They don’t all have bank accounts, a lot of them don’t have IDs, but almost all of them have mobile phones,” Berryhill said.

Data plans in many developing nations are pre-paid, and often time-based for different hours of the day. Extra time on a data plan can be a valuable commodity. 

“I can tell you that it’s treated like a currency,” Berryhill said.

An electronic catch system, called mFish, is a browser based application that can be accessed on any browser-accessing mobile phone. The application allows fishers and farmers to record catch data on their phone, and present that data to the next step in the supply chain. With Fishcoin tokens used as the incentive to add data, the cost of adding that data to mobile phone plans will be paid by the various downstream actors in the supply chain, such as importers who need the data to import the seafood, or wholesalers that need the data to meet buyer requirements.

“It’s essentially a peer-to-peer ecosystem where data is exchanged for tokens between actors, as seafood is exchanged for currency between actors,” Berryhill said.

Traceability is the “tracks” that full-chain traceability can run on, Berryhill said. That, in turn, can help increase the amount of data that flows on those tracks and drive efficiency inside the industry to improve sustainability, and a company’s bottom line.

“This has the ability to really make a massive impact on people’s lives, on such a huge industry for the planet,” said Alastair Smart of Eachmile.

Once an effective data ecosystem is established, the industry can use it to identify areas where waste is created and value is lost.

“I’m very excited about data, because with data I can see how we can really empower people to get the maximum value out of this product,” Smart said.

Fishcoin, and mFish are still at an early stage. But as things become more refined, the goal is to keep the platform open-source to encourage more utilization. Then, as the full infrastructure is established, the operation can be passed on to the relevant actors. 

“The world is full of very smart tech people that will tap into this and further grow the ecosystem,” Smart said.

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