MADE Cymru goes fishing!

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A University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s MADE Cymru initiative has been selected as one of nine participants for the Welsh Government funded research and development scheme entitled ‘Demonstrating the Potential of Blockchain’. The Blockchain Challenge is being delivered by Blockchain Connected, part of Technology Connected, the network for the technology industry in Wales. Blockchain Connected invited companies and organisations from across Europe to submit a challenge they had around the themes of circular economy, decarbonisation, supply chain and digital identity, and trust. The MADE Cymru team consists of Research Associate Odayne Haughton, Executive Head of MADE Cymru Graham Howe, and Associate Professor UWTSD Dr Carlene Campbell.  

The MADE Cymru team then selected Vizidox (VDX), a Provenance-as-a-Service company offering a blockchain plug & play API, as their technology partners. VDX leverages the benefits of blockchain to tackle fishing sustainability via blockchain-based digital passports.  

We spoke to Odayne Haughton about the project and his recent trip to Brixham harbour.

Why did you decide to look at the seafood industry as part of this challenge? 

The seafood industry is one of the world’s largest and oldest market sectors. It is also the longest logistic network for food. The industry is made up of complex global supply chains which creates numerous social and environmental challenges. 

Tell us about your visit to Brixham Harbour? 

For me personally, this trip was an opportunity to really understand how the supply chain works. It added so much value to the meetings and discussions we had held online developing theoretical models.  

I was curious to understand how the attitude and perception of various stakeholders (such as the fishermen, the back-office staff, the distributors) were towards innovation, automation and new technology. I was highly impressed and encouraged by the overwhelming positive response when we explained the project and how it could benefit the different stakeholders along the supply chain.  

The various stakeholders shared their daily work and I saw how each step took place with efficiency and routine. There was excitement, curiosity and eagerness to understand how Blockchain Technology could benefit them and make their work more efficient. This was from the warehouse workers sorting the fish, to the person in charge of exporting the catch across the borders.

How can technology improve the fishing industry? 

We observed how interconnected and interdependent the entire supply chain was, one element failing could result in a collapse of the entire system. We managed to observe closely the specific challenges of each stakeholder, including the sharing of some non-confidential data and where the errors usually occur, especially while manually inputting data into their catch and health certificates.  

A missing signature from the environmental health officer on their health certificate for export could result in the entire truckload of sea food and fish being returned, costing them thousands of pounds.  

We developed a theoretical model of developing a digital passport for each fish but realised that it is almost impossible to tag each fish, and a more accurate unit of representation for the catch would be to tag each box with a QR code to ensure traceability of fish.  

We also helped office workers entering 100 lines of information on Excel by automating the process with a simple code and a press of a button.  

I am hopeful that we managed to add some value to their day! 

How has the experience changed your perception of the industry? 

My impression of fishing has changed significantly as I previously thought it was an unpredictable profession. However, I was educated that the fishing companies in fact track their boats and the routes they are taking to predict the kind of catch they will get, based on their previously recorded data. Given these predictions they can start to negotiate contracts with their potential buyers in advance of the boats docking at the harbour which I found fascinating. The fishing industry is truly a data dependent industry and can benefit significantly from further innovation, automation and traceability. 

Give us some fish facts! 

I was quite thrilled to know now the different grading systems available to grade fish that are caught. E+ is the premium quality fish with perfect aesthetics, and A and B are the poorest quality of fish sold for a cheaper price. I have also learnt how to check the eye of the fishes to identify how fresh the fish is, I am hoping to use those skills the next time I do my fish shopping at Tesco or Morrisons! 

I have also learnt that the same kilogram of red mullet can cost £10-12 but like all things, it becomes £25 on Valentine’s Day, because of the significant demand for it, so this is definitely some good intel to have. Overall, a very insightful and educational trip! 

Aymeric V Bruneau, Business Development Executive at Vizidox (and technical partner in this project) said, “The seafood industry has one of the world’s largest and oldest supply chain for food. By exchanging with key stakeholders, we understood that digitalisation and standardisation could greatly benefit the industry as a whole.  

Blockchain technology is well positioned to achieve these goals. Vizidox (VDX) has designed a solution to enhance provenance certainty, traceability, and transparency along these supply chains to improve efficiency and accountability.” 

Thank you to Martyn Youell from Waterdance Ltd and Chloe North from the Western Fish Producers’ Organisation for organizing the visit for the UWTSD and VDX teams and thank Barry Young from Brixham Trawler Agents Limited and Alex Passmore from More Seafood Ltd for hosting us and sharing their industry expertise with superb hospitality.  

MADE Cymru offers courses designed to upskill manufacturers in Wales. Part funded by the European Social Fund through the Welsh Government. Delivered and certified by University of Wales Trinity Saint David.