Across all industries sustainability is one of the key challenges of the 21st century. The world’s natural energy resources are almost used up, forests are being cut down faster than they can possibly regrow and the oceans’ fish stock is over-exploited. Never before have there been more endangered species, like the bluefin tuna! It’s time to change that and be more thoughtful of the environment and its resources.

That’s exactly what made the two German entrepreneurs Jürgen Knoll and Harri Butsch found followfish. They used to run a fish store together when they realized that their customers felt disconnected from the product they bought. Often times they were not aware of the efforts made to catch, process and sell the fish. And they certainly did not see the effects fishing can have on fish stock or the environment. “Eventually, we arrived at the point where we couldn’t carry on like this and had to change things to the positive”, Knoll says. That is why in 2007 they founded followfish with the idea to make the complete procurement process transparent, thus connecting the consumer with the fishers. After being doubted from the start by their industry colleagues, followfish developed into one of the biggest organic fish producers in Germany with an annual turnover of about €42M.

Cans Benefit the Fish Populations

The concept fit really well with what customers were after: fresh and sustainable yet reasonably priced fish. One of the ways, followfish managed to achieve this is by using metal cans as their packaging material. The reason for this is as simple as it is sustainable, Knoll says: “There’s no need for a cold chain and we get a long shelf life, especially when looking at sustainability that’s a striking argument!” And he’s right. When the product stays good that long inside of the metal container, there is no need for fishers to constantly fish for e.g. tuna, a breed that’s endangered already. That way certain fish populations get time to recover.

Their Name Says It All

When buying a can of followfish tuna, you get a tracking-code used to follow the fish – hence the name – back to its roots, showing where, when, and by whom it was fished. The tracking result possibly says that the canned tuna that I just put into my salad was caught on the coast of the Maldives in May 2017 with a bamboo fishing rod. Sustainable fishing methods like that and the refusal to use techniques like the trawl net where other animals would often get caught by accident, are another great example of why followfish is on the right path to change the fishing market for the better.

Starting Things Small

“We stand for sustainability, not for luxury”, says Knoll when asked how he sees their brand. But using recyclable packaging is only one step in the right direction. Mr. Knoll also only eats organic food and drives an electricity-powered car. That’s of course not for everybody. Starting to be more aware of more sustainable life options might only be a first step in the right direction but it’s a very important one!

What do you think about completely transparent food production and where could we make improvements? Tell us in the comments!

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