An article from IFCNR published in 2019 on the topic of seafood fraud explaining how it occurs primarily due to the long and intricate path a product goes through to get from the point of harvest to a consumer’s plate. The complex journey creates numerous opportunities for intermediaries to mislabel or tamper with the product by taking advantage of minimal regulatory oversight. But what if there was a way to be able to track each product as it travels through the supply chain? The World Wildlife Fund of Australia and BCG Digital Ventures believe they have found a solution.
Following an award-winning pilot conducted by WWF that tracked tuna caught in the Pacific, together BCG Digital Ventures and WWF-Australia developed OpenSC. OpenSC is a supply chain tool which uses technology to track the movements of food through the supply path. This new technology is directed at being able to inform consumers about the fish they are purchasing and whether it was produced legally and sustainably. It also consequently targets producers who would no longer be able to use the complex path as a way to hide unlawful practices.
So how does OpenSC work exactly? Through the use of Quick Response (QR) codes, customers are allowed to directly scan their purchase with a smartphone that automatically displays all the information about where the product was caught, when and how it was produced, what the supply chain path looked like, the temperature the fish was stored at, as well as the product’s carbon footprint. This is all accomplished through a series of steps. The first step, called “Tag,” requires a digital RFID tag to be attached to the fish at the location of the catch. The next step referred to as “Check” involves the use of machine learning and GPS location to verify that the fish was caught in a legal area. With the third step, “Trace,” the fish reaches land to be filleted where the RFID tag is converted into a unique QR code for each portion of the fish. The fourth and final step, titled “Share,” is when any consumer around the world can scan the QR code to see the full journey of their fish.
Businesses that would like this system for their products allow digital tags to be made for explicitly linking their products to the blockchain platform. An example of a business already trying out OpenSC is Austral Fisheries, an MSC-certified sustainable fishery which sells its wild-caught fish to 13 countries. Austral Fisheries wanted their customers to be able to see the effort they were putting into reducing their carbon footprint and to also spread the message to consumers on being more aware of the climate impact of the foods they choose to purchase. David Carter, the Chief Executive for Austral Fisheries, stated, “We see how climate change affects our fisheries and we want our products to be a catalyst for the choices consumers make around climate.”
Just last week, one of the first products to be tracked with OpenSC, a Patagonian toothfish caught in sub-Antarctic waters by Austral, was cooked and served to customers who were able to scan on the set menu or a token to see the fish’s complete route to their plate. The choice of the Patagonian toothfish had significance because this is a species of fish with a history of being illegally poached for its desirable taste that sells well as a high-end product. Developers plan on expanding OpenSC to larger markets of fish so it can be utilized beyond the higher-priced fish market. There are also projects being worked on with the beef, palm oil, and timber industries.
OpenSC’s CEO Markus Mutz spoke on the topic of OpenSC’s mission, saying through use of this advanced technology, they plan to cover all the commodities that cause degradation of the planet as well as human and workers’ rights. Dermot O’Gorman, CEO of WWF-Australia, also mentioned how the creation of OpenSC is making a new level of transparency for the food we eat and whether or not it is contributing to environmental degradation or social justice. The creation of OpenSC is undoubtedly a step in the right direction for a potential solution to help combat the perpetual obstacles behind trying to maintain legal and sustainable fisheries.