Middlemen Getting Savvy with Technology – the OURFISH App

31 May 2017
Indah Rufiati

MDPI, in 2016, collaborated with the Smithsonian Institute as part of the “Technology Innovations towards Sustainability of Tuna Fisheries in Indonesia Project” to deploy an app, called OurFish in 2 small scale Indonesian tuna supply chains. OurFish was developed by the Smithsonian Institute to assist the supplier/middleman/first buyer node in seafood supply chains. The app has been previously deployed in various countries in South America and in Asia. The app has 2 main functions, namely to record transactions between fishers and middlemen related to fish and  other fishing related components such as fuel, ice, etc., in a way as a business management tool. Additionally, the app, as it collects info on all fish coming off vessels, collects production data, or total catch. In the development phase, suppliers were invited to test the app, give feedback about the experience of using it including suggestions, obstacles or other useful information, to improve the application. A guideline document was developed to give users an explanation as to how to use the app.

In the deployment phase, the app was introduced to MDPI’s Site Supervisor and Sustainability Facilitator in Waelihang, North Buru and Sakanusa, Seram, so that they can help to monitor and guide the supplier to operate it. The program and the app were explained to the selected suppliers and their workers. In North Buru the supplier was Pak Ayen and the trusted worker he appointed to operate the app was Pak Ismail, while in Seram supplier Pak Amir used the app. Both of these suppliers coordinate Fair Trade fishers, who were registered into their Ourfish account in the app.

The next step was a trial when the supplier or the worker was asked to test the app in a real-life situation on unloading. The key things to be emphasized in this step were how to input transaction data and how to synchronize the data so that it can be received by the software developer (Smithsonian).

After the trial, the suppliers were asked for their feedback on the app. Some questions and inputs were given such as: “Is individual loin inputted one by one? Is it possible to input them in batch to reduce time for inputting data?” This kind of input was reported to the software developer for their reference to improve the app in the future.

The implementation ran from July to November 2016. During the implementation, the supplier was expected to directly use the app whenever there was a transaction, i.e. during weighing the fish, making a payment to a fisher. The implementation was regularly monitored by the Supply Chain team by contacting suppliers by phone or text to get feedback.

The app is available on the Google app store and is now under direction of the NGO Rare. This video nicely describes the app and its uses in small scale fisheries.

Lesson learned

  • Both the suppliers (or his staff) were interested and support this kind of program, introducing new technology to their business activities. They were enthusiastic to use the app and other suppliers in the area were interested to test it also
  • Technology programs seem to need a long time for implementation, especially in remote areas where the people have lower knowledge of and experience with technology
  • Trading schemes and standards between suppliers and fishers are volatile due to follow the buyer standard. Therefore deep assessment is needed to build the proper app that is useful and able to replace paper record
  • Regular evaluation and improvement are needed

Writer: Hastuti

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