Executives at Massachusetts-based Raw Seafoods say a decision to deploy blockchain technology in their operations is driven by a desire to boost food safety, sustainability, combat fraud and encourage the public to eat more seafood by winning their trust.
The scallops and whitefish processor recently reached a new collaboration connecting global sourcing partners, retailers, and restaurants who will begin using the IBM Food Trust platform with the aim of boosting seafood traceability.
Raw Seafoods plans a user-friendly app connected directly to the Food Trust platform, which will allow consumers to access information about their scallops directly from the menu or point of sale in the retail locations by scanning a QR code.
Regular discoveries of the mislabeling of seafood is discouraging the public from buying and even trying products, in the view of Daniel McQuade, Raw Seafoods vice president of marketing.
Instances of seafood not sourced from the country stamped on the label, processed in a third country or even not being the species marked on packaging are commonplace.
"Every time one of these comes up it really hurts us as a processor, our customers and their customers that they are trying to sell to," McQuade told IntraFish.
Initial participants in the new system include Santa Monica Seafoods, one of the largest seafood distributors in the Southwest. Restaurants, including TAPS Fish House and Brewery in Orange County, California, and Santa Monica Seafoods Market & Cafes, will be among the first to serve scallops traced using Food Trust.
“This data will help us forge a more direct and fruitful partnership with the captains and crew that are harvesting the seafood we serve,” said Tom Hope, director of food & beverage at TAPS Fish House & Brewery. “Not only will the data help us be more strategic as a business, we think customers are going to love it.”
Vessel owners participating in the program will pay the $50,000 to $70,000 (€44,908/€62,874) per vessel for software systems. The costs of the system for Raw Seafoods boils down to IBM subscription fees and for human capital for staff capable of managing block chain.
Raw Seafoods, a supplier to Whole Foods, Wegmans and other retailers, is undertaking an expansion of its cold storage facilities at its Fall River site, which provides work for around 275 people.
In addition to primary processing of fresh and frozen products the company produces value added products including ready meals ingredients.
McQuade declined to comment on the company's annual sales but he did say that the figure is split roughly equally between foodservice and retail customers.
Peak time for harvesting scallops in the mid to north Atlantic Ocean runs from May to July. Much of the cod and haddock sourced by the company comes from Icelandic waters, while it has a close relationship with Norwegian salmon producer Leroy.