How are blockchain innovators transforming the aquaculture industry?


Sharmeen Khan took over OpsSmart in 2015 and oversees its expansion

Can you briefly describe your background and your career?

I worked in the computer services of the US federal government. I have worked with the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Labor and Health and Human Services. I managed help desks, databases – whatever was needed for the project.

I have no background in coding or technology. My masters is in technology management and I come from the school of marketing and business. I discovered that I don’t need coding and technology knowledge to understand technology and how it can be leveraged, used and adapted. OpsSmart falls well in this area.

Can you give a brief overview of OpsSmart?

OpsSmart is a cloud-based, software-coded, multilingual, US FDA award-winning traceability software that can capture the journey of any product, from agriculture and production to consumer. It uses blockchain technology and interoperability to provide end-to-end visibility and transparency throughout the supply chain. My husband and I took over OpsSmart in 2015 and focused on updating the underlying technology to meet emerging standards in the food safety and compliance industry. We have a team based in Thailand and the company is headquartered in the United States, where we hope to expand.

infographics
OpsSmart uses blockchain technology to provide end-to-end visibility and transparency across the entire aquaculture supply chain

How is OpsSmart’s approach to traceability different from its industry peers?

The OpsSmart core is soft coded and uses modules to create a unique solution for its customers. Our solution is configured and defined for our client’s business rather than the other way around. This allows for a bespoke solution provisioned in record time, changing the entire solution implementation and deployment paradigm. Businesses can be up and running with OpsSmart software in months.

OpsSmart is web-based software – we don’t have an app. Users log in directly to the OpsSmart portal to access their data. This means that being out of internet service is never a problem for our customers. They can enter the data into downloadable forms which are then downloaded once the device is in Wi-Fi range or at a scheduled time.

Can you give an overview of the type of clients you work with?

Some of our major customers are Tesco, a multinational retailer, Betagro, a Thai protein company with sales of over $3 billion, CP Foods, a vertically integrated food company including aquaculture and animal husbandry and Haji Baba, a UK-based Halal meat processor and supplier. at ASDA, a British supermarket chain.

OpsSmart also performs periodic traceability projects for the Thai government and consults with global regulatory authorities regarding traceability, food safety and supply chain optimization.

What made OpsSmart look into aquaculture and seafood?

OpsSmart has been working with CP Foods on shrimp farming since 2012 – we’re not new to the industry. We have increased our focus here because seafood consumption has increased and the aquaculture market has grown from 102 million tonnes in 1995 to 178 million tonnes in 2018. This represents a compound annual growth rate ( CAGR) of 4.4%. By 2028, it will be a $404 billion market! It is only good for business to pay attention to aquaculture.

How has the blockchain tracking system adapted to the seafood industry?

Here are some blockchain basics: Blockchain is a shared, immutable ledger for recording transactions, tracking assets, and building trust. Supply chains are simply a natural complement to blockchain. It enables document management, business management, payments, product identity and origin, and customer experience.

It’s very helpful to the seafood industry because most seafood isn’t eaten where it’s farmed. Its short shelf life also makes it a good candidate. For example, 85% of seafood consumed in the United States is grown elsewhere – blockchain traceability allows shoppers to have confidence in the seafood they buy and gives them detailed information about the origin of the seafood. products and ingredients. Since OpsSmart is integrated with the Internet of Things (IoT) and documentation software, customers can scan a barcode and read all the information suppliers give about their seafood products.

Why did you decide to apply for Aquaculture Innovation Studio Hawaii by Hatch?

OpsSmart applied for the innovation studio as a startup. We hoped to gain more market and industry access and explore new opportunities. Number one for me is always gaining knowledge and insight into an industry. The interaction with Hatch experts and the wider Hatch network, which includes Yamaha and Cargill, has been invaluable. I also wanted to make contacts and create relationships that would broaden my horizons. There is so much to aquaculture and I wanted to work with people who know the industry well. This level of craftsmanship was something I wanted for OpsSmart. I really enjoyed the mentorship and the time I spent at the innovation studio.

Zero equity was also very attractive initially – it allowed OpsSmart to take advantage of Hatch’s expertise without giving them a slice of the business. The experience was amazing! Interacting with speakers, making connections and working alongside the Hatch team has been a huge boon to the company and is an integral part of the studio’s program. I definitely benefited from the experience. What I learned the most from the studio program was to have confidence and believe in my product and myself.

What advice would you give to start-ups wishing to get into aquaculture?

Startups really need to understand what part of the aquaculture business they want to get into – not just geographically, but also in terms of market. The industry is vast and varied. Innovators must identify their target markets, their customers and refine their scope. It is important to inform yourself because otherwise, you will waste time and get out of breath. Startups also need to understand their competition and how they might fit into the aquaculture ecosystem.

I would also say that startups need to make friends within the industry and build their relationships – this will help them understand the industry and identify potential opportunities. Attend as many webinars as you can and be sure to listen – you can learn so much and the people in the industry are so helpful.

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The OpsSmart team in Thailand

What’s next for OpsSmart?

Grow, grow, grow! That’s the point. Our feet are wet, our software is fabulous, and won the US FDA Traceability Challenge last year – so we’re good to go. Winning this award gave OpsSmart great credibility and confirmed that our offering is affordable and usable.

We know what market we are heading towards in the United States and the Greater Mekong Sub-Region and we have a strategic plan to move forward. We have a great team in the United States and Thailand, so I can’t wait to see what happens.

More information on Hatch’s Aquaculture Innovation Studio Hawaii

The Innovation Studio is aimed at researchers, innovators, startups, entrepreneurs or established SMEs in aquaculture or adjacent sectors. He promises to validate their propositions, make sure their product finds the right market, grow their global network, and find potential customers and investors.

The studio will be held in person and on-site at the Hawaii Ocean Science and Technology Park, which is administered by NELHA, from April 18 to May 13, 2022. The event is focused on the development of aquaculture and seafood projects and is open to a range of candidates – from conceptualization-stage teams to later-stage startups seeking to explore potential new markets.

aerial view of a business park
The innovation studio will feature a mix of internal and external mentors, focused on the farmed and alternative seafood value chains

© NELHA

The program will feature a mix of internal and external mentors, focused on the farmed and alternative seafood value chains. Successful applicants will have the opportunity to validate their ideas with aquaculture experts, develop go-to-market strategies and gain advice from investors. They will also have full access to the Hatch team, which will help them grow their business model, team, technology readiness and industry fit. Mentoring will take place over two to three days a week, allowing participants plenty of time to continue working on other projects and meeting their needs. Overall, participants will have a truly global perspective of the aquaculture industry and access to a wider community.

Hatch’s Hawaii Aquaculture Innovation Studio program will be accepting applications through March 28. Click here to learn more and submit an application.

*The Fish Site is part of Hatch’s investment portfolio, but retains editorial independence.

Megan Howel

Associate Editor at The Fish Site

Megan Howell started writing about aquaculture in 2019 as part of the editorial team at 5m Publishing and The fish website. She holds an MA in Applied Research Methods from Trinity College Dublin. She currently lives and works in Ireland.

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