Demands for better food chain transparency triggered by the coronavirus are being seen as an opportunity for two providers of blockchain supply chain management solutions targeting seafood clients in China and globally.

Camberwell, Victoria, Australia-based Two Hands has opened an office in Shanghai in order to lure Chinese clients to its solutions. Oslo, Norway-based SeafoodChain AS, meanwhile, wants to expand its Unisot suite of blockchain solutions into China and several major salmon producing countries this year.

Two Hands boss Greg McLardie said he believes the coronavirus crisis has highlighted the need for better transparency in the supply chain. Two Hands connects fishermen directly to end users through blockchain, in the process reducing the risks of disease-spread and pandemics, he said.

“To chefs and consumers globally, fishers are faceless, their regions are invisible, and the supply chain is a black box. Middlemen and their behavior are unknown. The power is with middlemen rather than fishers, chefs, and consumers,” McLardie told SeafoodSource.

By cutting out the middleman, fishermen will make more profit and increase recognition with consumers, according to McLardie, who splits his time between offices in Melbourne and Shanghai.

McLardie gave the example of an Australian lobster fisherman who can lock a Two Hands smart-tag on a lobster with data on pricing, weight, and quality uploaded to an online marketplace, where customers, such as restaurants in Shanghai, can bid on it.

“After the order passes through Shanghai Customs, it is transported direct to the restaurant – avoiding all middlemen, including wet markets,” he said.

By connecting restaurants with producers, Two Hands technology ensures everyone acts ethically, every action and transaction connected with each product is recorded for all to see. By making information public, blockchain ensures “copycats and unethical participants are uncovered and fishers won’t sell to or consumers won’t buy from these bad actors,” McLardie said.

McLardie isn’t the only one who thinks the pandemic has awoken the seafood industry to the necessities of better supply chain management. Another is Stephan Nilsson, CEO of SeafoodChain AS, whose platform Unisot is bringing Bitcoin to bear in its solution for the seafood sector.

Blockchain can create “irreversible records” that automate the supply chain and makes seafood trading more efficient, Nilsson told SeafoodSource. By building a supply chain management system on the Bitcoin SV blockchain, Unisot’s Seafood Chain enables traceability, micro-payments, and virtual contracts.

Fragmented record-keeping is a weak point of the post-COVID seafood trade, according to Nilsson.

“One of the biggest concerns in all supply chains is a lack of visibility, as companies are challenged with trusting countless participants to provide current product data. From a logistics perspective, supply chain data sources are often limited to the last interacted stakeholder, which could include a variety that don’t update data, including suppliers, distributors, retailers, and customers, thereby significantly increasing inaccuracies. Further, most systems are antiquated, relying on spreadsheets and Google docs to track movement across the supply chain,” he said. “An already-strained supply chain in the seafood industry has undoubtedly been affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic, as it puts further strain on the complex web of interactions involving fishermen, fish farmers, processing plants, shippers and retailers.”

Unisot offers three apps: one for industry facilitating data registration in the field including location, temperature, and weight, one for the Horeca (hotel, retail, and catering) sector, enabling chefs and restaurants to access all provenance information, and a third app that allows end-consumers to scan a QR code for information.

Nilsson plans to expand Unisot into China this year by working with resellers. The platform is currently being implemented by customers in Norway – from fish-farmers to seafood distributors and restaurants. Nilsson is also planning expansion into Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Chile, Canada, Scotland, and India.

Despite a reputation for conservatism and tradition, the seafood sector is ready to embrace blockchain in a post-COVID push for efficiency and transparency, Nilsson said.

“The customers and prospects we are in contact with are not very conservative and they realize they need to digitize and automate their operations to save costs and to be able to provide their customers with correct and timely information,” he said. “Also, end-customers are demanding more information about the quality, origin, sustainability, and content of the product they buy.”

As for revenue generation, Unisot, “provides this as zero investment, cloud-based Software as a Service [SaaS] and charges very low transaction fees that are also enabled by the Bitcoin SV blockchain,” Nillson said.

Revenue is also generated by offering other services, including data management and monetization, to clients, he said.

Sino-Australian operation Two Hands meanwhile is busy raising funds to expand its footprint this summer. The firm has partnered with the Australian equity crowdfunding platform Birchal, aiming to raise several million dollars to expand its operations, with a long-term goal of listing on the Australian Securities Exchange, McLardie said. McLardie said there’s potential for a rapid adoption of the technology in the post-COVID world.

“One of the great things about this digital age is, once a digitally disruptive product resonates with its users in solving significant pain points, it can grow its user base at exhilarating speed,” he said. “Primary school kids today cannot envisage a world where smartphones did not exist. Equally, when infants of today reach primary school, they will be incredulous previous generations did not know who the fisher was nor if the food was handled ethically. These future primary school kids will feel safe knowing food supply chains will not enable another COVID-19, SARS, or bird flu.”

Photo courtesy of Two Hands



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