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Moral Food: A Fish's Trek From 'Bait to Plate' on the Ethereum Blockchain

It’s a little bit like “Finding Nemo” – except at the end, you get to eat the fish.

During the Ethereal Summit, hosted May 11-12 by ethereum startup/incubator ConsenSys in Queens, New York, attendees were given an immersive experience to highlight the benefits a blockchain could have of tracking goods as they move along the supply chain. While blockchain’s use for supply chain management is being tested for a whole host of products by startups and tech heavyweights alike, during the summit, Viant, an ethereum-based supply chain management startup, focused on tuna.

The experience started by showing attendees a short documentary film called “Bait to Plate,” that charted the journey of a person-sized Yellowfin tuna caught in the waters off Fiji, an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean.

The documentary followed the fish from being caught to being packaged to being shipped all the way to plates of attendees at the conference.

Viant co-founder Kishore Atreya told CoinDesk, “Those who ate the sushi knew exactly where their fish was coming from.”

Atreya’s comment hints at the problem many blockchain enthusiasts believe the technology can solve – that in today’s global economy, it’s hard for businesses and consumers to know how their goods were acquired. This is not only important for people interested in only supporting the eco-friendly, sustainable and equitable trade of goods, but also in stopping the spread of food-borne illnesses, which have thus far been hard to pinpoint and control.

As it relates to tuna sourcing in Fiji, consumers are becoming more aware that some of the fisheries are using slave labor, and in an effort to cut that off so it doesn’t continue, want better insight into the process at its very beginning.

And according to Viant, logging the steps from bait to plate on the ethereum blockchain can provide that view.

Whereas blockchain-based supply chains have been proposed for a whole host of goods – from diamonds and precious metals to marijuana to Ethiopian coffee – Viant focused on tuna because it’s a use case nearly everyone is familiar with.

Speaking to that, Tyler Mulvihill, Viant co-founder, told CoinDesk:

“One of most primal things is what we eat. But we become disconnected with that and blockchain is a great way of bringing that connection back.”

Tracking your tuna

But the blockchain isn’t the only technology that was needed to make this experience hold water.

As the film explains, immediately after the Yellowfin tuna was caught, the fisherman attaches a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag to the fish, giving it a unique identification number that can be used to continuously track its location.

By geolocating the fish using that tag, Viant logged the tuna’s coordinates on the ethereum blockchain and was able to show not only that it was caught legally and in sustainable waters, but also how many hands “touched” the tuna before it reached Ethereal Summit attendees chopsticks.

According to the Viant co-founders, their process for tracking goods is particularly rigorous and allows for a trustless environment whereby no one has to rely on one party (which could have reasons to fudge data) to correctly log location information.

And by using the ethereum blockchain, anyone can view those data points.

During the event, sushi made with the tuna was served to guests on a napkin featuring a QR code that could be scanned with a smartphone to pull up the exact details of the fish’s journey from Fiji to Queens.

sushi, ethereum

Anything fishy?

While supply chain management has been a popular use case for blockchain-based systems, the digital system cannot prevent physical manipulation.

For instance, the RFID tag could get damaged or a malicious actor could detach the RFID tag and reattach it on another good, anywhere along the supply chain, effectively corrupting the data.

As entrepreneurs and technologists continue to develop better systems for this process, Viant’s Mulvihill points out that the company’s role is broader – providing blockchain-based supply chain software to customers to experiment with and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

“There may very well be imperfect solutions built using the Viant platform, but the users and customers will react and demand improvements,” he said.

Still, though, Mulvihill believes blockchain is an improvement on business as usual within the industry, allowing for more accountability since data is logged on a transparent, shared ledger.

“There was already a need for this, but no one could agree [on what the solution was],” he said, adding:

“Now there’s new technology that can do that – old problems, new solutions.”

Fish and tuna image via Viant

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Losing the Hoodie: Crypto Fashion Gets Loud and Proud In New York

“Make blockchain stylish again, that’s my motto.”

So quipped the emcee of the third Ethereal Summit in Queens, NY, during one of the final talks of the two-day event. He’d been asking attendees to ask embarrassing questions they might have about the technology.

Joseph Lubin, founder and CEO of event host ConsenSys, had touted the occasion as a way to bring those outside the space into the fold. Artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, enterprise executives and government activists all blended with the usual crowd, and it was obvious.

While the reclaimed glass factory where the event took place has its share of of jeans and T-shirts (typically ones with crypto company names or logos on them), some at least seem to have moved beyond the Zuckerberg hoodie. There were occasional splashes of color, where some were perhaps summoning the genre ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin seems to have established – “unicorn punk“.

And although not the most crypto red carpet-ready event in history, Ethereal did not disappoint, bringing together the more conservative threads of the traditional enterprise space with the colorful, yet in-your-face style of the creatives that have taken a liking to a nascent industry that preaches radical inclusion.

As such, CoinDesk decided to record some of the notable looks and off-kilter costumes of the cryptocurrency and blockchain space in 2018.

Niki Williams wearing Wild Fang 

Much like the bathrooms at ConsenSys, Niki Williams likes to support brands that celebrate humans being free to be non-binary – an in-vogue term relating to the idea of not being just one or the other thing: male or female, straight or gay, and so on.

Williams, a southern California-based community curator for ConsenSys, embraces such total freedom, saying:

“If we’re going to create a decentralized world and offer access to money, resources, politics, blah, blah, blah, then we should live it and breathe and support brands that feel the same.”

Speaking to the attitudes in the blockchain space, Williams continued, “In any group that’s in the minority, there is a duality where there’s one group of people that use identity politics and the other group of people that says, ‘fuck that.'”

In her eyes, Ethereal brought together both those groups, looking dapper, who are trying to legitimize the crypto industry and those more eccentric tech nomads that don’t fit into any one culture.

Kelvin Fichter wearing Y3, Supreme and Yeezy

Sporting what’s seen as a normal part of fashion in the space – the crypto company tee – and striped pants, when asked why, Kelvin Fichter merely said, “Why not?”

Fair point.

When prodded further, though, Fichter said his outfit was comfortable and mentioned ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin’s style (colorful T-shirts generally featuring kittens, rainbows, unicorns and the like) as inspiration.

“People who create the tech, shape the tech,” Fichter, who researches ethereum scaling tech, plasma, for Omisego, said, adding:

“I want the tech to stay quirky and human, not like a menacing financial beast.”

Mercina Tilleman-Dick wearing Phillip Lim and Coach

The chief operating officer of the Global Blockchain Business Council, Mercina Tilleman-Dick was refreshingly honest, saying that she wore the black-on-black outfit because it was the one she didn’t wear on her last business trip. As such, it just migrated it from one suitcase to the other – likely something many in the crypto space will sympathize with.

Although, she continued, saying she typically dresses pretty “conservatively” because of the nature of who she meets with in the course of her job.

In another situation, “I wouldn’t be wearing sneakers,” she said. Although, “one of the cool things about the crypto community is that it’s very accepting of all sorts of people.”

Caitlin Long wearing Free People

Caitlin Long, who had just got off stage at Ethereal after speaking about the work she’s been doing in Wyoming, where she’s been working with the state government to craft a blockchain-friendly legislative bill, had boots that caught everyone’s attention.

When asked what inspired her to wear such exciting footwear, Long said:

“Because the environment that’s here – anything goes. This is not a corporate conference. It’s all about celebrating the individual.”

Kirill Gourov in unknown

According to a friend with Kirill Gourov, he looks like a “modern crypto gentleman.”

Sporting slick loafers, dark jeans and a casual sports jacket over a mono-color slight V-neck T-shirt, Gourov dressed the part of many an Ethereal conference goer – a look that says, ‘I just stepped out of the traditional financial world and into crypto.’

Leslie Bocskor wearing Nino Corvato

Leslie Bocskor, the president of Electrum Partners, a cannabis and crypto advisory group based in Las Vegas, said his whole look was intentional, and it showed.

From the “uninhibited eyebrows and wild facial hair to the suit with splashes of color,” not to mention the marijuana-leaf cuff links, Bocskor came to Ethereal representing exactly who he is and what he wants people in the industry to know him as.

“There’s a crossover between many different worlds – traditional global finance, regulators, government, but also alternative and evolutionary business environments,” he said, adding:

“I put on costumes for each even I go to that represent me and where I’m trying to go best.”

Earl Mack wearing Earl Mack

Earl Mack, a designer and artist from Virginia, was at Ethereal working with rareart.io, a platform for allowing artists to sell scarce copies of their digital art.

One of his designs was screen printed on his yellow hoodie and he hand-painted the flames on his jeans.

Speaking to his personal style, Mack told CoinDesk, “I don’t talk a lot, so I let my clothes speak for me.”

And he wants them to convey that he’s different, out of the norm – “I’m really into standing out.”

Ashleigh Hill wearing Diane von Furstenberg, Zara and Free People

Ashleigh Hill won’t let her style be determined by the male-dominated industry where mute colors and conservative patterns have generally reigned.

Shooting for CNBC Crypto Trader, Hill had on a bright pink dress under the bright blue striped jacket and boots with a flower pattern. According to her, she wears mix-matching patterns and tons of colors every day and she doesn’t want her job to change her personal style.

It’s nice to be a strong and empowered woman who’s OK with standing out, she said, adding that she maintains the outlook:

“This is me and I know about cryptocurrency.”

Images from Ethereal Summit via CoinDesk

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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A Daily Show Comedian Showed Up to Roast an Ethereum Conference

“No one knows what the fuck is going on.”

That’s according to Ronny Chieng, senior correspondent on the satirical news program The Daily Show, who took the stage at Ethereal Summit on Saturday with ConsenSys founder and CEO Joseph Lubin and Kavita Gupta, founding managing partner at ConsenSys Ventures.

Chieng, who spoke with Lubin in December on the show, again criticized the big promises and hype of the industry. He argued that many people in the industry use complicated jargon and words that were “invented” two or fewer years ago to camouflage the fact that they don’t actually know how the technology will change the world.

The Daily Show correspondent said at one point:

“You could talk about anything with these people. You could talk about the NBA playoffs and they’d be like, ‘Yeah we’re going to use blockchain to defeat LeBron.'”

In a room full of ethereum devotees, Chieng’s jokes garnered laughs, but also hit on topics that should cause blockchain enthusiasts to ruminate on.

For instance, Chieng was critical of all the attention cryptocurrency was getting, questioning its resurgence in interest since peer-to-peer technology has been around since decentralized file-sharing platform BitTorrent.

Lubin – who had trouble getting a word in – acknowledged this, but said the time is right for decentralized technology to take hold.

“BitTorrent was attacked in significant ways. It was stigmatized and didn’t come out at a time when there was popular sentiment,” Lubin countered, adding:

“Trust is lost in centralized institutions.”

Indeed, several speakers at the two-day conference mentioned Facebook’s recent scandal, which saw third-parties were collecting Facebook user’s private data, as an example of how the narrative around these centralized institutions is starting to shift.

Money madness

Still, Chieng didn’t let up, saying that the drastically fluctuating prices of cryptocurrencies should be seen as an obvious sign of a bubble. Although he chided, he is more than willing to make money off of it.

Blockchain, he said, is “what dumb people like myself can make money off of in the short term.”

According to Chieng, he hasn’t succeeded in that mission just yet. He told the audience that after the initial Daily Show segment with Lubin, a viewer emailed him to thank him for making dogecoin, the silly cryptocurrency with a Shiba Inu dog mascot, pump (even though the show spoke about it in a negative light).

“And then I stupidly jumped on Ripple. What a mistake that was,” Chieng said, before declaring: “Fuck Ripple.”

Lubin tempered the exuberance over price, saying that ConsenSys has a policy that developers can’t talk about the price, suggesting the usual narrative in the space that the technology is much more important and interesting than the price.

But, Lubin said, bull markets are nice in that they spur more funding and participation by entrepreneurs and technologists.

“It’s great when the price goes up because it brings more resources into the ecosystem,” Lubin said.

Chieng still seemed skeptical, and speaking possibly to many outside observers’ feelings about the space, said:

“This is either the biggest scam or the most undervalued asset in humanity. It could still be either way.”

Kavita Gupta, Joseph Lubin and Ronny Chieng on stage at Ethereal Summit image via CoinDesk

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.