By: Kristen Weiss
Stanford University and neighboring Silicon Valley are hubs for technological innovation, so it’s no wonder that Stanford’s campus was the backdrop for Fish 2.0’s 2017 Innovation Forum, where 39 seafood and fisheries industry entrepreneurs pitched their latest and greatest ideas to savvy investors and business mentors.
The Center for Ocean Solutions was a co-sponsor of this year’s Forum, held November 1-3 2017, and seven COS staff attended the event to learn about some of the biggest challenges and opportunities around sustainable development of the seafood sector. Presenters and panelists focused on five global trends identified by Fish 2.0 as driving current transformation in the seafood industry: the rapid growth of aquaculture; many wild fish stocks near or at overfished status; the rise of online and global seafood markets; increasing consumer demand for high quality and healthy foods; and the need to better understand climate change impacts on fisheries.
In response to these trends, company pitches at the Forum targeted new and developing seafood markets, such as fish feeds made from insects, bacteria or algae that are much more efficient and sustainable than standard fish meals made from wild caught fish. Increasing transparency and traceability in the seafood supply chain was another key topic, with venture ideas ranging from easy-to-use apps for fishers to RFID tags and QR codes that consumers can use to verify the origin of seafood products.
Eight seafood businesses received top honors from investor-judges, and were rewarded cash prizes. Awardees were selected from six regional and two global tracks, and proposed ideas ranging from sustainable community-based small-scale fisheries ventures to overnight farm-to-table oyster delivery service.
Ventures like these represent a hopeful shift toward more transparent and sustainable processes throughout the seafood industry, and in combination with good policy (e.g., the soon to be implemented US Seafood Import Monitoring Program) have the potential to increase food security globally, support livelihoods locally, and reduce the environmental footprint of fisheries and aquaculture in the future.