This is the first part of a series exploring the history, technology, and partnerships of Envisible, a sustainable food procurement company aiming to make supply chains more transparent.
It’s been a long time secret that seafood supply chains are rife with fraud and unethical labor practices. But that is, thankfully, changing — the company Envisible is using traceability technology to procure and sell sustainable, minimally processed food.
Envisible supplies grocery cooperative Topco Associates’ member supermarkets, including Food City, with seafood that is fully traceable, thanks to a combination of technologies that make food systems more visible. That allows both businesses and consumers to make informed decisions that could improve seafood quality and hold companies responsible at every step of the supply chain.
The systemic problems throughout seafood supply chains are now coming to light. A study in PNAS published last year finds that complex and opaque seafood supply chains around the world enable product mislabeling, including misrepresentation of species and the origin of the product, including where it was fished, and whether it was farmed or wild.
Illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing and human rights abuses in the seafood supply chain have become so prevalent that in May 2021, U.S. Representatives Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) and Garret Graves (R-La.) introduced legislation to stop these practices. The bill will establish seafood traceability and labelling requirements, strengthen international fisheries management, and allow the U.S. to revoke port privileges for fishing vessels that use forced labor or take part in human trafficking.
Achieving transparency in seafood supply chains has been elusive for decades due to the nature of the product itself. “I can’t think of anything that’s harder to trace than something that swims in the open ocean and you can’t see it without sonar or infrared,” Envisible co-founder Mark Kaplan tells Food Tank. That’s why Kaplan thinks technology is central to transforming the visibility of seafood supply chains. Envisible uses blockchain technology to log each step of a fish’s journey to a consumer’s plate, from catch to store. Plus, the company collects data on the seafood with bioelectric sensors to ensure quality and freshness.
Food Tank is the convener of the Refresh Working Group, which brings together food, agriculture, and technology experts from across the United States. These experts discuss the potential role of technology—and its cost and benefits—in our food and agriculture systems.
The Refresh Working Group has identified five focus areas to improve technology policies: strengthening supply chains to build trust and improve food security; empowering consumers through transparency; expanding broadband in rural communities; ensuring the fair use of data in the food system; and reducing inequities through a digitally skilled workforce. Envisible’s use of technology to make seafood supply chains more transparent reflects those values Food Tank is championing.
Photo courtesy of Paul Einerhand, Unsplash