Fresh fish app tangled up in nets

Last updated 05:00 26/01/2014

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An IT start-up aimed at providing fisheries with real-time catch data has found itself snagged on government regulations.

Set up by fisherman-turned-technology entrepreneur Rimu Boddy, Southernware enables fishing boats to electronically record their catch using an iPad app while still at sea and send the information back to shore via a satellite connection.

Southernware's system is designed to send that data to the Ministry for Primary Industries so it can monitor quota limits. However, current regulations bar his app from being able to connect to the ministry.

"What we'd like to do is provide a solution where MPI can see exactly what's happening on the boats in real time, rather than having to wait a month between forms getting sent back and forth," Boddy said.

"We're just trying to tidy up the whole system, it can all be done, but the only big roadblock we have at the moment is that FishServe are the only ones with the legal ability to report," he said.

FishServe is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the industry body Seafood New Zealand (SNZ), which was set up to manage the quota register for the seafood industry, SNZ chief scientist David Middleton said.

"They're essentially there so that these administrative services are done cost-effectively and efficiently."

Before new software can be used it needs to be accepted by MPI as an approved technology, which means "a lot of hurdles to jump over", chief executive of FishServe Lesley Campbell said.

"The ministry does have particularly stringent security standard specification requirements, so an app developed by a third party independent of MPI probably won't get a look-in," she said.

FishServe's current system requires a laptop or PC, but it is looking to upgrade it to be more tablet-friendly, she said.

The advantage of Southernware's system is that it allows fishing companies to know exactly how much and what varieties of fish their boats are bringing back en route, meaning they could begin trading before the boats even reach the dock.

"At the moment, it's only for sale once it hits land. We want it to be for sale as soon as it's caught . . . Logistically it makes a huge difference, and even financially if they know they've got the fish there," Boddy said.

In a statement, MPI said it is interested in moving away from the less efficient paper form system, but the most important issue is that is has trust and confidence in the information provided by fishers, with data quality, accuracy, and authentication being essential.

While Boddy is trying to find a way around the issue, he is asking permission to submit information gathered by Southernware's system through printed forms, as well as focusing on the software's commercial stock management functions.

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Southernware's product was developed in Dunedin with the aid of business incubator Upstart. The app's diverse uses were a big advantage, Upstart operations manager Conrad Anderson said.

"I think it's got excellent future potential and potentially a number of different customers for it,"' he said.

Once Boddy finds a solution to the issue of MPI access, he plans to look for investment capital to refine the product and then focus on "getting it on a whole lot of boats".

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- Sunday Star Times

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