Pioneering Blockchain Technology in the Pacific
TraSeable Solutions Pte Ltd was founded in Fiji in 2017 by my wife, Shaunalee and I based on what we perceived as a growing need in the fisheries sector that was not being met. We both had fisheries experience behind us – Shaunalee having worked for Samoa’s Fisheries division and myself with the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) in Honiara for six years. Neither of us had any experience running a business but we were relatively confident that we could learn fast and do things differently at TraSeable.
Considering the trend in tighter regulations and growing demands to access international markets coupled with the fight against Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Pacific region, we saw the need to establish a technology company focused on digitalisation and traceability of seafood products originating in the Pacific. FFA estimates the annual loss of revenue in the Pacific to IUU fishing at around US$616 million.From our combined experience we knew the state of national and regional fisheries information systems, whilst improving, was not in the positionto offer accurate and reliable traceability of fish caught in the Pacific. So, we decided to do something about it.
Distributed ledger technology (DLT), or blockchain, was not a new concept to me but TraSeable’s real introduction to using it came with the question – “Do You Wanna Make History?”. Bubba Cook from WWF-NZ was looking for a Fijian technology partner in Suva to help them implement a project with local fishing company and processor, Sea Quest (Fiji) Ltd, and ConsenSys, one of the largest blockchain companies in the World. It was quite fortunate that we had just started TraSeable, we knew the industry very well, we knew the fisheries data and information systems well, and more importantly we knew Bubba and he approached us to be their technology partner.
We have an amazing young team at TraSeable that are passionate about fisheries and want to create impact and opportunities in the Pacific. We knew from the start that to be lean and innovative we could not run TraSeable like every other company. As such,we leverage technology with most of our team working remotely, only coming into the office for team meetings or if they need somewhere different to work. Slack and emails are used to communicate with each other throughout the day and we believe in flexible working hours – where possible, our team work when they want to and wherever they want to so long as the work gets done.
Blockchain opened many doors for TraSeable and gave us amazing international coverage since we started working with it. Our project with the WWF became the first of its kind in the longline fishery in the World. We helped form the Fiji Blockchain Community and have run blockchain events in Suva and contribute to other projects in the Pacific. Recently, I became the first Certified Ethereum Blockchain developer in Fiji, and probably the Pacific. We started building our own blockchain developer community and have since run a blockchain project at the University of the South Pacific (USP) through their Industry Experience Project (IEP) working with final year software engineering students. We are also the first technology company in the Pacific Islands to be contracted by a regional agency to build a blockchain prototype for them which integrates their existing data tools.
There is a lot of hype around blockchain and what it can do. There are even questions about its suitability for use in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) considering its energy usage. At a basic level, blockchain technology is a digital mechanism for consensus, trust and verifiability with no central authority. For TraSeable, it was not difficult for us to take it onboard and see how we could apply it in fisheries traceability. We had fantastic support from the ConsenSys team in Brooklyn, a very forward-thinking team at Sea Quest, and visionary leadership from Bubba at WWF-NZ.
The decision to use blockchain always comes down to the use case that you want to apply it to. It does not solve every single problem and in many instances a centralised database will be a cheaper and more appropriate option compared to blockchain. At this point, there are barely any Pacific technologists with blockchain experience. There are additional challenges to implementing technologies like blockchain in the Pacific – limited and expensive Internet connectivity in many island countries, limited resources and support infrastructure, although this has not stopped people from envisioning the use of blockchain in the Pacific. Apart from provenance and traceability, other proposed use cases we have seen are land title registry, cryptocurrency insurance, decentralised energy trading and organic product certification to name a few innovative ideas.
For businesses in the Pacific interested in using blockchain technology, there are really only two options – to use something off the shelf and integrate it into your business, or to build something from scratch that suits your use case well. Both options can be prohibitive because there are not many enterprise-grade blockchain solutions that can be bought and if there are, they are not cheap. Building a solution from scratch also offers challenges due to the lack of experienced blockchain developers available and the high costs associated with it. At TraSeable, we recognise these challenges and we offer consulting and blockchain solution development services so that this technology can be accessible to Pacific businesses and users.
Innovation, leveraging appropriate technologies, and teamwork are key at TraSeable and we know our success depends on it. We are now starting to share our learnings as entrepreneurs in the Pacific with a series of innovation workshops for budding entrepreneurs. The goal of this is to help develop a thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem and encourage our budding Pacific Island technologists to use technologies like blockchain to help solve challenges in their communities, their countries, and in the Pacific. 2019 will also be an exciting year for us as we utilise our traceability experience in the agriculture sector with our TraSeable Farms solution coming online.
Kenneth is an ICT professional and consultant with over a decade of Pacific regional experience in leadership, advisory, and technical roles specialising in enterprise Management Information Systems (MIS). He is the Founder of the first Fijian blockchain tech start-up, TraSeable Solutions, which focuses on seafood transparency and traceability. Kenneth is working with ICDP to develop Pacific partnerships, particularly in supporting existing projects relating to blockchain and ICT.
TraSeable Solutions Pte Ltd is a Fijian tech start-up that supports global seafood sustainability through a blockchain-ready software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform for seafood traceability that fosters collaboration between stakeholders, leverages and integrates Internet of Things (IoT) technology, and facilitates transparency by providing regulators with the means of verifying and validating end-to-end forward and backward traceability of seafood products.