A new project aiming to make the ASC programme more accessible and affordable to farmers is underway with help from shrimp producers Thai Union and Okeanos, who are testing the technology at three farms currently preparing for ASC certification.
The project aims to test the benefits of a farm management tool developed by VerifiK8 which could provide a ‘gap analysis’ to farmers, telling them where improvements may be needed to meet ASC requirements. The tool offers a pre-digested checklist in Thai that covers the standard metrics. All data and documents can be uploaded directly in the platform through a web or a mobile application.
This project represents an early pilot, but potential further benefits of the tool could include identifying compliance gaps to provide risk-based training which is targeted at the specific needs of farmers. Currently many farmers receive training on the ASC standards and requirements to help them prepare for certification, and in the future this training could specifically focus just on the areas identified as needing improvement by the tool.
If successful, the tool could enable farmers to make the right improvements before beginning the audit process, saving time and money while improving environmental and social management practices.
The project is funded by ISEAL, which is the global membership organisation for certification programmes, as part of its work to support improvement projects in industries around the world. Thai Union will be using the tool at the farms which are applying for ASC certification, to determine if and where any gaps exist between the farms’ performance and the strict requirements in the ASC Shrimp Standard.
Currently farms often employ consultants to assess their farms before applying for ASC certification to find out if they are likely to meet requirements, which can be prohibitively expensive for smaller businesses. ASC is proactively working to make the programme more accessible to smaller farmers in a number of ways such as group certification, which allows multiple small farms to share some of the costs of certification without lowering any of the ASC’s strict requirements. It is hoped that this tool could further assist smaller-scale producers who want to demonstrate their responsible practices.
Pla Duangchai, ASC regional coordinator for SE Asia, said: “Smaller producers make up a significant portion of global aquaculture production, so for ASC’s mission to improve aquaculture standards to succeed these farmers must also see the benefits of ASC certification.”
“This tool removes some of the barriers that can make this difficult and provide a scalable and affordable path to ASC certification, with its benefits for producers, local communities, and the environment. We’re grateful to Thai Union and ISEAL for their support, which has made this project possible.”
Prad Kerdpairoj, Director of Sustainability for Asia from Thai Union said: “Responsible Sourcing is a key pillar of Thai Union’s SeaChange® Sustainability Strategy. Through this project, we aim to support Thai shrimp farmers in our supply chain to build their capacities towards international standards on responsible aquaculture.”
Positive step for Thailand
Thai Union are a major producer in Thailand, which is itself one of the most important producers of farmed seafood in the world. Thai Union’s application for ASC certification is a positive step towards more responsible aquaculture in the country, which exports seafood around the world.
Verifik8 is a consultancy and technology company with previous experience working with farmers in the sugar cane industry. This tool has previously been tested with a small-scale shrimp farming cooperative in Vietnam and new improvements made which can now be tested by farms early on in their certification process to get a better idea of the benefits.