Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal seeks to break down trade, cultural barriers

Published on
April 25, 2018

Willem van der Pijl claims he knows little about seafood. A trained anthropologist, van der Pijl attests that people are his subject of expertise.

And yet – or perhaps because – of his unorthodox background, van der Pijl has become a key player in the global shrimp trade. Most recently, he facilitated an important meeting between Indian producers and European buyers to help ease tensions resulting from European Commission’s regulatory crackdown after it found several shipments of Indian shrimp were contaminated by antibiotics. 

Following of the success of that first meeting in late January 2018, van der Pijl has organized a follow-up meeting taking place on Wednesday, 25 April at Seafood Expo Global in Brussels, Belgium. Representatives of the European Commission and European shrimp buyers will meet with envoys from the Indian government, as well as members of the Seafood Exporters Association of India and India’s Seafood Importers and Processors Alliance, with the goal of effectively addressing issues of contention.

While van der Pijl’s knowledge of seafood is more extensive than he lets on, the success of his efforts to foster dialogue in the seafood industry reveals his true strength – connecting people. That strength is the foundation of his business, the Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal (STIP), which he founded in 2013. 

Based in Utrecht, The Netherlands. STIP is an independent social enterprise aiming to increase transparency in seafood supply chains and develop investment partnerships, with the goal of creating a more sustainable seafood industry. Besides van der Pijl, its leadership includes Sander Visch, a former fish farmer; Nikki den Book, who previously worked in fisheries governance; and Jasmijn Venneman, the former purchasing manager at Anova Seafood. Working directly with local producers, importers, and exporters, and partnering with companies, sector organizations, universities, and NGOs, STIP’s goal is to “help meet tomorrow’s demand for healthy and sustainable seafood today.”

“I love the space where business meets ethics and sustainability and I love to connect people who share the same ambitions,” van der Pijl said. “I have worked around the world in all major countries of origin for shrimp and other exotic seafood products. While working with seafood importers and exporters, I realized there is a huge opportunity to connect the right people and to support them to increase investments in the sustainable development of seafood supply chains.”

Backed by the NGO Solidaridad, STIP started operations in Bangladesh and Myanmar (it is participating in this year’s Seafood Expo Global as part of the new Myanmar pavilion located in Hall 5, Booth #703) and has since expanded into India, Indonesia, Ecuador, Vietnam, Peru, China, Madagascar, Argentina, and Iran – nearly all the world’s countries that have significant shrimp production, van der Pijl said.

Its status as a social enterprise means STIP prioritizes people over profits, van der Pijl said, although he still has the goal of getting STIP to the point where it is self-sustaining. But he doesn’t hesitate to clarify his priority for the organization.

“If we had to focus on making money for the organization or doing social good, no doubt, we would do good,” van der Pijl said. “But I think we can do both. Our goal is to bridge the gap between commerce and sustainability.”

Still, the company has a promising business model, centered on attracting members to its trade portal, which features in-depth information looking at practically every angle of the seafood sectors in the countries in which STIP operates, from production statistics, lists of authorities and institutions involved in fisheries and aquaculture management, company databases, factory profiles, export markets, food safety certifications, and sustainability certifications. Van der Pijl calls it “the world’s best search engine for seafood companies.”

From that, STIP can create custom market reports and risk assessments, assist in matchmaking and networking, and even offer custom marketing solutions based on the individual origin stories of seafood and its producers. While the offer of these products is meant to help other companies in the seafood world make money, STIP’s own end goal is more transparency in the sector, and ultimately, more visibility for sustainability-minded suppliers, van der Pijl said.

“STIP’s products and services shed light on what happens in supply chains and enable companies to find business partners that can meet their quality and sustainability requirements,” he said. “By helping ambitious companies to find each other and foster long-lasting business partnerships, the resulting competitive advantage will lead to an increasingly sustainable seafood industry and eventually create a climate where transparency and sustainability are the standard.”

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