Investing in Seafood Traceability: Why Aren’t Investors and Seafood Businesses Doing More?

As someone who works with both seafood entrepreneurs and investors, this is a question I get often. There are many exciting technological advancements that would allow us to track seafood through the supply chain. Fishery managers, retailers, and restaurants want detailed information about where, when, and how fish were caught.  So why is so little capital investment going into the sector by either industry insiders or investors?

Some might argue that seafood supply chains are too complex and the technology to monitor every step isn’t there yet. But sitting at the recent Ocean Agenda@ Google meeting, it was clear this isn’t the case. We have electronic tags the size of a pencil tip, bar codes that carry pages of information, mapping systems that translate all this complex data into usable images, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

As one company owner, Trackwell, explained at the meeting, we have all of the pieces needed to track seafood from fishing boat to consumers’ plates – but most companies are reluctant to do it.  Some businesses have applied tracking to small-scale seafood enterprises or to niche portions of their product lines. Few have brought the pieces together at scale for commodity products, which make up the bulk of seafood trades.  Typically, entrepreneurs developing new ideas in this space struggle to find large-scale investment.

Why is this? As I presented at Google Oceans, I believe the missing piece is policy.  

Typically we think of policy in the oceans as limiting harmful fishing or protecting important animals and places. But policy also plays an important role in creating a more certain future that businesses and investors can plan around – making it worth it for them to invest their time, money, and energy in developing business ideas. 

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The 2013 Competition & News