Written by: Monica Jain / TechCrunch.com (abstract)
Seafood has blown past its iceberg lettuce stage and entered trendy greens territory, with eaters loading up on oceanic superfoods and falling in love with previously unknown species as fast as daters swipe right. Even inland-dwelling locavores can easily satisfy their seafood cravings. What once was waste is now a premium snack, or maybe a wallet. We get that farmed fish is good—in every sense of that word. Mystery fish are a thing of the past. Sustainability is a minimum standard, not a luxury.
At the time it seemed like I was surfing the edge of plausibility. But based on what I’ve learned from the 200 or so seafood innovators entering the Fish 2.0 network over this past year, it’s all happening—in many cases much faster than I expected. And it’s happening all over the world.
So what does the future of seafood look like today?
People are looking beyond the shrimp-salmon-tuna triumvirate and learning to love the less familiar. Barramundi and cobia are going mainstream in some markets. Sustainable seafood purveyors are turning species that used to get thrown away into high-end treats, and celebrity chefs are buying invasive species (like that lionfish) and overlooked delicacies (like scampi caviar). At the same time, it’s getting easier to grow healthful, great-tasting salmon and other popular species in land-based farms, thanks to better feeds, disease prevention, and production systems.
It looks like we really will stop loving our favorite wild fish to death and become more adventurous seafood eaters.
So many startups are working on traceability and transparency challenges that there’s little doubt we’ll soon know who caught a fish, where they caught it, how cold they kept it and more. Mystery fish is well on its way to no longer being a thing, at least in regions where regulations are enforced.
The rise of sea tech is speeding efforts to clear up seafood’s notoriously murky supply chain. Sensors, robotics, networked cameras and other technologies that operate in and out of the water are helping fishers and farmers collect and analyze real-time data, so they can catch and grow seafood in the best possible way. Labor practices are getting a dose of daylight too.
The questions today are not about whether we can collect essential data, but about who owns the data, how public it should be and which datasets are most important. This is a huge leap forward.
Speaking of aquaculture, I said farmed fish would fill out more of our seafood plate, and they are. Aquaculture is growing at a clip of 5.8 percent a year and accounts for more than half the fish we eat.
Not all farmed fish are raised right, but they can be. Solutions to aquaculture’s sustainability challenges are heading to market. In addition to the fish feed problem, innovators are working on escape-proof ocean farms, resource-efficient land farms, natural remedies for healthier fish, capturing and upcycling fish farm waste, and more productive hatcheries. This is all good—we need sustainable fish farming to take the pressure off wild fisheries and meet global demand for clean protein.
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