Nova Scotia Fisheries try (and succeed) to use LocEcon

This is our story about how Jordan and Dave collaborated with LocEcon. Their story about their work and plans for Nova Scotia fisheries is much more interesting.

They were our first real user group. LocEcon was just a baby app, not yet out of diapers. By the end of the first stage of our collaboration, the app is probably in the third grade.

Jordan Nikoloyuk and Dave Adler had been working with Nova Scotia fisheries for a couple of years, aiming to revive local fishing communities using sustainable fishing gear.

Short version of sustainable vs unsustainable fishing gear: hook-and-line (sustainable) vs trawlers (unsustainable because they dredge up the bottom of the fishing grounds, hurting future fish populations). Trawlers are winning because they can dredge up more fish more cheaply. But it is a losing proposition for the fish populations and the Nova Scotia fishing communities and ultimately the rest of us.

Shannon Arnold and Sadie Beaton at the Ecology Action Centre of Nova Scotia had organized Off The Hook, a Community-Supported Fishery program where fish-lovers could sign up to get weekly deliveries of the freshest and best fish on the market from hook-and-line fishermen, and the fishermen get better prices and friendly connections with their customers. Dave and Jordan were working to take the CSF program to the next level.

We were really impressed with these guys, because they weren’t just talking: they got their hands dirty with the real life of fish peddling. Through Off the Hook, they bought fish and had it trucked and sold from Nova Scotia to Toronto and points in between to get the full experience of direct marketing. Using Thisfish, a seafood tracking and traceability system, they were able to keep track of where the fish ended up and show consumers where it came from.

Now Dave and Jordan wanted to expand to cover more of Nova Scotia: more local fishing boats, more sustainably-caught fish, more local processing, more local direct marketing.

They got in touch with LocEcon via our friends Jim Rutten and Mike Kennedy, via their friend Susanna Fuller, who works with Jordan and Dave at the Ecology Action Centre. They wanted to analyze fisheries value chains, which is exactly the kind of thing we wanted LocEcon to be able to do.

Except first we needed to make it do that. And Jordan and Dave had to help us. Little did they know what they were getting into... Helping to design an app while you are trying to use it is a lot different from buying one off-the-shelf or off-the-download.

They found a lot of data from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and helped us massage it into our first collaborative cluster, called Groundfish, which looked like this:

Until then, nobody but us programmers had ever tried to create new clusters, but Jordan jumped in and figured out how to do it (despite very sketchy documentation and a few bugs (which are now fixed...thanks for tripping over them, Jordan...)).

Jordan and Dave also helped us improve the maps, diagrams and reports.

One of their major contributions was the idea of creating as-is and to-be views of clusters.

Here’s the fisheries wholesale value chain as-is:

Here’s the Off The Hook value chain as-is:

The wholesale value chain does not care how the fish was caught. Hook-and-line fish is better fish, because trawler fish get bruised and broken. And trawlers damage the fishing grounds and future fish populations. And the trawlers are usually run by big corporations who do not support local economies. But their lower-cost fish determine the market prices for hook-and-line fish as well.

And while the Off The Hook value chain provides better fish, better fishing grounds, and better local economies, their volumes are a drop in the bucket compared to the wholesale market.

Now here’s the to-be:

From Jordan and Dave’s report:

What we need: A Regional Sustainable Seafood Distribution Network

We envision a structure of fishing vessels from different areas of the province operating in a network of local food distribution platforms. Landed whole fish could be taken directly to small-scale processors willing to work under a ‘fee-for-service’ model and then continue to local distribution hubs. These local hubs would redirect whole and processed fish to farmers markets, local restaurants and community supported fishery subscribers, depending on local demand. A portion of this product would also be directly to a ‘regional food hub’ located in Halifax, where the population base supports aggregation and redistribution.

Here's another excerpt: how Jordan and Dave used LocEcon maps to find opportunities to connect fishing boats to farmers markets:

The New Glasgow Farmers Market brings approximately 30 vendors together every week during summer months and services a county of approximately ~45,000 people [...]

There are no seafood products available at this market with the exception of lobster sandwiches sold on-site. However, the market is located very close to a working fishing wharf where owner-operators continue to land longline-caught groundfish in summer months.

We enjoyed our collaboration with Jordan and Dave, and thank them for helping to design and test the LocEcon software (which is and will always be open source, by the way, so some day you might thank them too).

We at LocEcon will continue to work with Jordan and Dave as their sustainable seafood network evolves, to provide more details for network planning, and eventually, operational and administrative software for managing the network. This will be similar to our existing Food Network Software.