Globalization 3.0 gives the seafood sector reasons to be bullish

Published on
March 12, 2018

The seafood economy should embrance, not fear, the future, political economist, author, and professor Mark Blyth said in his keynote address at Seafood Expo North America in Boston, Massachusetts on 11 March.

Blyth, a professor at Brown University explained in his address, titled, “What Does Globalization 3.0 Look Like? Global Trade in a World of Local Populism,” said that to-date, two waves of globalization have shaped the world’s economies – and that we are on the cusp of a third. 

Underpinned by steam navigation and railroad transportation, the first globalization began in the 19th century and ended with World War I. Containerships and computerization brought the second globalization era in 1980, and this lasted until 2008 before crashing under the weight of the financial crisis. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the next game-changer, with the scope to transform everything from drug design to the power grid, said Blyth.

“This could be so transformative, especially in your industry,” he said. “AI is here; there’s no point whining about it – it’s all a question of what you do with it.”

When adding an aging population and digitization into the equation, productivity is set to increase massively over the next 20 years, said Blyth.

Globalization 3.0 will also see more manufacturing done at home, but by fewer people and in smaller firms. Consequently, global supply chains will get much more efficient, and labor markets will become more nationally insulated.

“The current moment is distracting, even a bit dangerous, but not fatal,” he said. “Try and think long-term; it really does make a difference.”

Blyth said that even the seafood sector – which has a history dating back to Biblical times and earlier – will be affected by the third wave of globalization.

While it is highly unlikely that there will be any change in the U.S. market’s dependency on imports, with 91 percent of the seafood consumed in the country coming from overseas, dramatic improvements could nevertheless be made in domestic companies’ stock management and supply chain efficiencies, Blyth said. He also said he believes that AI technology could unlock aquaculture’s full potential, acknowledging that while fish is “the most efficient protein generation mechanism in the world,” the farming of aquatic species can cause public consternation due to potential environmental impacts. 

“It’s about optimizing the system. Imagine 20 years from now, AI bots running incredibly efficient systems, 24-7, so that when a waste management issue arises that humans could barely detect, these systems automatically self-correct. They will be able to optimize the growth process throughout the lifecycle to harvest with practically no waste,” he said. “What an incredible opportunity that is.”

The United States then might be able to export seafood again, and with Asia’s young and growing population, there is ready and waiting market, he said

“You get this right, there is a tremendous selling opportunity and there is a tremendous growth opportunity,” he said. ‘I’m actually bullish about this. I think we need to embrace it, argue for it, make a better job of getting rid of the barriers behind it, because if we don’t, that is when the populous is going to ‘get out of the bag’ and destabilize the system. But if we are proactive and embrace these technologies then we are going to be eating fish for a long time."

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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