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E-Fishing Sea: a digital marketplace to empower local fish and seafood ecosystems

Fragility of food supply chains led to disruptions

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted domestic food supply chains, causing a severe increase in global food insecurity. The UN World Food Program estimated that an additional 121 million people could face acute food insecurity by the end of 2020, an 82% increase compared to a pre-COVID estimate. The security of food supply is an increasing concern to countries, companies and individuals, and the pandemic has highlighted how external risks are affecting the system. With other factors such as climate change and threats to biodiversity also affecting international supply chains, it is vital that we create greater resilience throughout the system if we are to prosper in the future.

As MBA students of HEC Montréal, in Quebec, we witness this change and the need for more localized food sourcing in our direct environment, as is the case in many places around the world. In Quebec, 89% of fish and seafood products consumed (70,388 tons) are imported, while 81% of local catches (54,961 tons) are exported. It is a classic situation of fish and ship. It goes without saying that, because of this high dependency on exports, this supply chain is fragile to any disruption, especially a global pandemic. The cause? An outdated, complex, and cloudy distribution chain that creates a disconnect between the fishers and the consumers, where traceability is absent.

The E-Fishing Sea platform

Directly connecting the fishers to end consumers and small food businesses is aligned with major trends towards consuming more local and sustainable products. And to achieve this, we created the concept of E-Fishing Sea, a digital marketplace to empower local fish and seafood ecosystem.

How would it work?

Fishers would be able to post on the platform current or upcoming catches instantly (including waste), have their products picked up and, more importantly, adjust their activities and price to demand. For buyers, they could browse catches or place requests for future products, get products delivered at their convenience, stay informed on fishing topics, and learn recipes and stories about the fish and seafood they eat. Finally, the third-party logistics would receive a digital order slip through Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and connected IT system.

E-Fishing Sea would bring traceability to buyers, who would know where the fish on their plate are coming from. Furthermore, it would be convenient and simple to use, allowing them to get what they want in just a few clicks. For fishers who are selling their stock mostly internationally, the platform would bring them local market outlets by taking advantages of the premium that customers are willing to pay to buy fresh and local produce. Also, up to 70% of processed fish and seafood residues i.e. fins, heads, bones, etc. are just thrown away. E-Fishing Sea would partner with dedicated leftover handling companies to valorize those residues that can have many uses, like fertilizers, oils, protein powder, feed ingredients for farm animal, in pharmaceuticals etc. It would allow an additional income for the fishers.

E-Fishing Sea is not only a transactional platform, but a real community that would enable a conversation between fishers and consumers. It would also educate buyers regarding local species and sustainable practices. By emphasizing local ecosystems, E-Fishing Sea would lead to a more resilient domestic food supply chain, a key lesson learned from the pandemic. Empowering the fishers would encourage them to invest in virtuous practices, such as sustainable fishing techniques, ultimately helping to develop a sustainable industry.

To know more about our solution, have a look at our video here, or you can contact one of our team members: Jean-Frédéric Baillargeon-St-Pierre, Marion Dubois, Nirmal Govinda, Guillaume Jolicoeur and Christian Ulrich Sonfack

 You can sign up for future A4SICC updates on the website.

About the A4S International Case Competition (A4SICC)

The A4SICC asks students to create ideas that will solve sustainability challenges and shape the businesses of the future.

The A4SICC 2021 set a challenge to design business models where supply chains are robust to climate change and macro sustainability threats. Teams were encouraged to consider how to use the lessons learned during the pandemic to create new, innovative and sustainable solutions to prepare for future challenges and opportunities.

Team E-Fishing Sea were crowned the 2021 winners by a panel of global industry professionals at a live, virtual event on Saturday, March 27th.

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