Solution Overview

Solution Name:

Innovación Azul

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One-line solution summary:

A transformative social venture for sustainable fisheries and ocean conservation

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Pitch your solution.

Billions of people rely on seafood as their primary source of protein, most of it caught by the 180 million people working in small-scale fisheries worldwide. Climate change, overfishing, and pollution threaten ocean ecosystems and coastal communities alike. Fragmented and uncoordinated marine conservation efforts will not help us meet international development targets or protect livelihoods.

Innovación Azul is a platform cooperative, owned by fishers, fishing groups, and other stakeholders in the ocean conservation community, providing a digital infrastructure that facilitates collaboration. Innovación Azul, and its beachhead app PescaData, provide a web-based enterprise dashboard for fishing cooperatives and organizations, business operation tools, and a marketplace for goods, services, and ideas.

By 2025, we intend to reach 300,000 fishers in Mexico, and 1.2 million in Latin America by 2030 - connecting them with each other, with organizations, and with investors, to work towards resilient communities and healthy oceans, together.

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Film your elevator pitch.

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What specific problem are you solving?

Mexico alone has over 5,000 coastal communities and 300,000 small-scale fishers who depend on fishing. Latin American has over 1.2 million fishers. Fishing can be a lonely endeavour, with little opportunity to share and interact, but come rain come shine, small scale fishers go to fish every day. Fishers are flexible and make daily decisions to adapt, using their experience and available information. Some of their choices move them towards sustainability and social benefits, others do not. Fishers can switch from one fishery to another, create new fishing techniques, and find new markets quickly. 

At the same time, fisheries management and marine conservation is ripe for disruption. Despite decades of investment, the impacts of climate change, overfishing, and pollution on ocean ecosystems and coastal communities continue to increase. Latin-American fisheries continue to be data-poor, with under-funded management. Globally, meeting SDG 14 alone is estimated to require $175 billion per year. Despite this, current marine conservation efforts are fragmented, uncoordinated, and focus on a few silver bullets (e.g., MPAs, rights-based fisheries management) that overlook the people who are on the ocean, adapting their lives to fish every day - small-scale fishers. 

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What is your solution?

By taking a startup approach to ocean conservation, Innovación Azul and its partners allow the collective development, sharing, and scaling of solutions to the ocean crisis. Tools that provide utility to fishers (such as catch logs, data visualization, fishing organization management) are included in an integrated digital ecosystem alongside modules for sales, services, and digital collaboration across a Latin American network of fishers. By incorporating distributed ledger technology, user data are attributed and protected, with individual users forming part of a platform cooperative that puts data sharing decisions into the hands of the user, and allows value created in the ecosystem to be returned to the users. Finally, Innovación Azul is highly modular, with API integrations allowing other platforms to easily connect, continuously increasing the utility provided to fishers.

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Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

Our target population are stakeholders in the Latin American small-scale fisheries sector. The fishers themselves are a key sector, but not the only one. We also want to engage with women and men working in the value chain, fishing communities in general, researchers and non-profits.

Small-scale fisheries in Latin America employ hundreds of thousands of people directly, and many more in the value chain (cleaning, processing, marketing etc.). Men are highly represented in the capture part of the fishery, but women play important roles in pre- and post-embarkation, particularly in processing and sales. Women´s roles are often invisible (Solano et al. 2021) and a digital divide exists between both men and women (Antonio & Tuffley 2014) and in rural communities. 

Fishers and fishing organizations are served by PescaData´s suite of tools (digital catch logs, fishing organization tools for managing fishers, boats, permits and data). This is the principle on-ramp to our platform. Despite a high level of smartphone penetration, most administrative processes are still analogue, or not even completed. By streamlining these processes, we provide utility to the fishers, help bridge the digital divide, and encourage their participation in Innovación Azul´s ecosystem. Fishers also have access to peer-to-peer knowledge exchanges and marketplaces. Marketplaces focus on community markets, where users can offer or search for products or services they need. Many fishers have alternative incomes (e.g., outboard motor mechanic) that can be monetized in their community. The co-creation and sharing of solutions to common problems is something that fishers already do successfully offline (usually through casual discussion or non-profit organized exchanges). By moving this online we allow permanent records of these ideas and solutions to be created, shared and, with our distributed ledger technology users are able to retain credit to their ideas and solutions as they are shared and replicated.

We have worked closely with fishers since the onset of development. Workshops, with contributors from ten fishing communities helped design conceptual frameworks for the marketplace, and catch logs have been designed to meet the needs of the highest number of fishers possible.

Researchers and non-profits want access to data and to implement ideas. Fishers often have this data. By creating a marketplace for information, researchers can make offers to fishers for their data. Does a researcher need landings data on 1,000 lobster? The researcher can reach out over the network and contact the fishers with an offer. This will be more efficient than collecting the data themselves, and allows fishers to be compensated for the work they put in to collect the data. Non-profits can also benefit from measuring the impacts of their actions. Built-in data aggregators measure the contributions that fishers and other stakeholders are making to international targets like the Sustainable Development Goals (particularly, SDG 5, 13 and 14) and FAO´s small-scale fishery guidelines, allowing the impacts of actions to be measured, and adaptive strategies to be proposed. 

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Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Create scalable economic opportunities for local communities, including fishing, timber, tourism, and regenerative agriculture, that are aligned with thriving and biodiverse ecosystems
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Explain how the problem you are addressing, the solution you have designed, and the population you are serving align with the Challenge.

Innovación Azul supports the fishing and local communities component of the challenge. We aim to support existing economies (e.g., fishing organizations positioning themselves or their products), create new economic opportunities (e.g. community markets for goods and services) and monetize big data (through sponsorship, advertising and sales). Our platform cooperative model ensures that value generated in the ecosystem is returned to the users to support the transition to sustainability in their fisheries.

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In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Sonora, Mexico
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What is your solution’s stage of development?

Growth: An organization with an established product, service, or business model rolled out in one or, ideally, several communities, which is poised for further growth.
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Explain why you selected this stage of development for your solution.

Our PescaData app was rolled out in Mexico as an MVP during the summer of 2020 and is available for download in both App Stores. In total we have 617 users, 54 fishing organizations and aim to reach 300,000 fishers in Mexico by 2022. We are also in discussions to implement our product in three Latin American countries. Our business plan was designed in 2020 and is beginning to be implemented. Funding to date has replied on philanthropy and the implementation of our business plan and revenue model will allow us to raise institutional capital. 

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Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Stuart Fulton

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More About Your Solution

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new business model or process that relies on technology to be successful
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What makes your solution innovative?

Marine conservation and sustainable fishing initiatives in the developing world have not changed for decades. International organizations try to clone solutions tried and tested in one country, in another, with little regard for local customs or context. Failures are not recognized, and lessons are not learnt. The space is ripe for distribution. By creating a platform cooperative where fishers, and other stakeholders, can co-create solutions to adapt to a changing world, a peer-to-peer network of fishers and practitioners participate an efficient marketplace for ideas and solutions that work on the ground.  

By creating opportunities for other stakeholders (NGO, government, academia) to join this process and benefit from this participation, we hope to catalyze a movement to modernize how sustainable fishing is achieved, breaking from the current model of top-down, fixed “recipes”, to adaptive, bottom-up processes where fishers work together over digital platforms to create change and resilience. We are designing to be open. Working towards healthier oceans should not require proprietary software or competition. Innovación Azul is designed to connect to other solutions that work (via API) to create an ecosystem of interconnected technologies that provide utility to fishers and practitioners alike, without needing to reinvent the wheel.

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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Ancestral Technology & Practices
  • Big Data
  • Blockchain
  • Crowd Sourced Service / Social Networks
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Select the key characteristics of your target population.

  • Women & Girls
  • Rural
  • Poor
  • Low-Income
  • Middle-Income
  • Minorities & Previously Excluded Populations
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In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Mexico
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Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 5. Gender Equality
  • 13. Climate Action
  • 14. Life Below Water
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In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Honduras
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How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?

Innovación Azul currently has 617 users from 54 fishing organizations in Mexico. We aim to have 10,000 active users within one year, and over 300,000 users from across Latin America within five years. By active users we consider fishers, researchers and NGOs who are actively uploading catch logs, sharing solutions and participating in discussions.  We are currently rolling out of strategy in Mexico and are in discussion with groups in Colombia, Ecuador and Honduras for piloting during 2021.

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How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

We measure our progress towards targets through public and private dashboards that aggregate information from across the platform (# of users, gender, boats, fishing organizations, aggregated landings, submitted solutions, marketplace activity and closed agreements). User surveys and feedback requests are also periodically requested for specific information, via the app itself or a WhatsApp Business account.

The measurement of the Sustainable Development Goals are explicitly built into the platform. Mexico along has over 6,600 fishing cooperatives. Many implement informal marine reserves (SDG 13+14), are transitioning to sustainable practices (SDG 14), and some are recognizing women´s role in the value chain (SDG 5). However, the contributions of these fishers and cooperatives are generally invisible. With hundreds of landings sites, populated by thousands of fishers, catching hundreds of species, aggregating this data in developing countries with underfunded national agencies has proved impossible. 

Innovación Azul collects contributions to the SDGs, and FAO´s Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries, by aggregating information from user and organizational profiles, surveys and user-submitted solutions to feed public dashboards that measure the contributions of the users towards these international targets.

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About Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

Other, including part of a larger organization (please explain below)

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If you selected Other, please explain here.

The solutions team is part of the non-profit Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI) . However once the platform cooperative is created (during 2021) the software and digital tools will be transferred to this new, for-profit entity, with COBI retaining a stake in the organization. 

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How many people work on your solution team?

Innovación Azul has four full time staff (project manager, outreach and training (x2), community manager), and 10 members of COBI´s staff team working part-time on this project to support onboarding and outreach. Four staff from Armillaria work part-time, as well as a team of four software developers.

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How long have you been working on your solution?

Two years

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How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Our team has extensive experience in marine conservation and sustainable fisheries in Latin America. COBI is recognized as the leading organization for bottom-up fisheries solutions in Mexico. We have participated in the creation of 72% of the fish refuge no take zones, and 38% of the eco-certifications for fisheries in Mexico. Our staff includes experts in fisheries policy (Espinosa et al 2017), gender equality (Solano et al. 2021), citizen science (Fulton et al. 2019) and climate change (Beas-Luna et al. 2020).

However, as COBI turned 20 years old in 2019, we reflected on how to scale the impact we have had working in direct collaboration with fishers in 40 coastal communities, to the more than 5,000 communities (just in Mexico) where we have not worked. Current sustainable fisheries efforts can not be scaled to meet the SDGs in the needed timeframe. By partnering with Armillaria, experts in engineering systems to solve wicked problems, and with contributions and feedback from over 100 fishers (to date) we will deliver our solution.

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What is your approach to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive leadership team?

Innovación Azul´s leadership team consists of four women and three men (four full time and three part-time)  Members of our team have experience working in, and publishing research on, gender equality in fisheries, do-no harm frameworks, and participatory approaches to conservation. We are aware that when we ask you to think of a fishery, our mental image is often an older man, on a small boat, casting a net. Our product, Innovación Azul, aims to empower disenfranchised and underrepresented fishers, particularly women and youth, by recognizing their work in the fishery value chain and providing opportunities to participate in activities, markets and discussions. We will not discriminate on grounds of ethnicity, gender identity, religion, age, or nationality. 

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Your Business Model & Partnerships

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
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Partnership & Prize Funding Opportunities

Why are you applying to Solve?

We are applying to Solve to share our transformative model for open conservation with the world and open opportunities for funding and investments. With most of our team members coming from a non-profit background, we must immerse ourselves in the world of entrepreneurs and start-ups as we scale and grow our digital infrastructure and help solve the biggest problems.

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In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Business model (e.g. product-market fit, strategy & development)
  • Financial (e.g. improving accounting practices, pitching to investors)
  • Monitoring & Evaluation (e.g. collecting/using data, measuring impact)
  • Product / Service Distribution (e.g. expanding client base)
  • Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design, data analysis, etc.)
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Please explain in more detail here.

Mentoring for technology and product development will help us to keep pace with a rapidly developing field and ensure that our product not only evolves over time but is designed to evolved from the start. Pitching and presenting our business model and product to investors is the second area where we believe we can receive significant support, due to our team´s background in the non-profit sector. 

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What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?

We would like to partner with all Solve members and applicants who are working in sustainable fisheries and marine conservation. By connecting platforms and replicating what works, Innovación Azul will work more effectively with the small-scale fishing community to create resilience and achieve sustainable fisheries. We also consider partnerships with groups working on data sovereignty and technology for good to be key partners as we continue to develop our ecosystem. During our growth stage, we would like to partner with MIT initiatives such as the Startup Exchange, and when we reach scale, begin working with faculties involved with data science and the ethical use of technology.

  

We also look to partner with civil society groups, non-profits and academics working in fisheries to scale our work, provide utility and connect with their platforms (if they have) to provide additional utilities to the small-scale fishing community. 

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The Andan Prize for Innovation in Refugee Inclusion? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The GM Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the Innovation for Women Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the Minderoo Prize to End Global Overfishing? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes, I wish to apply for this prize

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Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use the Minderoo Prize to End Global Overfishing to advance your solution?

By working with all fishers, through an inclusive, bottom-up approach, we are able to promote change from within. To date, most technology in fisheries has been just that, technology in fisheries, not technology for fishers. By empowering the user (the fisher) we can incentivise better decision making and move fishers towards sustainability and good practices on a larger scale, which helps solve the problems faced by implementing technology in a small-scale fleet of millions of fishers with hundreds of thousands of landing sites around Latin America alone.

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The ServiceNow Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The AI for Humanity Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

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Solution Team

  • Gabriela Cuevas Curator-Innovation, Comunidad y Biodiversidad, A. C.
  • Stuart Fulton Catalyst for Change - Innovation, Comunidad y Biodiversidad
  • Jorge Torre General Director, Comunidad y Biodiversidad, A.C.
  • Mrs Carmen Valdez Biologist, Comunidad y Biodiversidad, A.C.
 
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