Founder & CEO-
In July 2021, India-based aquaculture platform Aquaconnect raised a USD4m pre-Series A led by Flourish Ventures and Rebright Partners, with participation from Agfunder and 6G Capital, and follow-on from Hatch and Omnivore.
GPCA spoke with Raj Somasundaram, Founder & CEO, about how Aquaconnect is using tech to increase productivity and access to formal credit for India’s fish and shrimp farmers.
GPCA: Why did you start Aquaconnect? What problem are you trying to solve?
Raj Somasundaram: I came to understand the challenges of the aquaculture industry during a serendipitous meeting with a shrimp farmer. I learned from him how the prevalence of traditional farming and low technology adoption had led to poor productivity and frequent disease occurrences.
Indian aquaculture farmers produce about USD18b worth of fish and shrimp every year, yet the banks and financial institutions are staying away from extending the formal credit products to the farmers. The lack of production data increases the complexity in the underwriting and credit portfolio management of banking institutions. This leads to informal credit culture in this aquaculture value chain where farmers have to pay up to 40% annualized interest rate.
We started Aquaconnect as a comprehensive solution platform that would address the challenges in the aquaculture value chain through data-driven technology intervention.
We deploy AI and satellite remote sensing technologies to provide data-driven farm advisory for fish and shrimp farmers to improve their farm productivity. Further, we leverage the data intelligence to connect farmers directly with farm input producers, banks, insurers, seafood buyers, etc., at the right intervention.
Congrats on your recent funding.
The recent investment from marquee investors like Rebright, Flourish, AgFunder and others is a strong validation of our goal to become India’s largest aquaculture value chain aggregator and will help us scale up in both size and scope. We will deploy the fresh capital to scale our farm advisory, financial services and marketplace for seafood exports.
What is the current product?
We launched two products in the pre-harvest chain: Aquaconnect advisor app & AquaCRED.
Aquaconnect app is a farm advisor that helps farmers manage their ponds efficiently. Our app captures pond-level data and uses deep learning algorithms to provide context-aware alerts and suggestions to improve productivity. It also helps farmers to optimize pond water quality, feeding consumption patterns, animal growth and health management.
AquaCRED is a B2B fintech product that enables formal credit and insurance to the farmers through farm-level data intelligence. The AI-powered dashboard leverages the farm data intelligence (“boots on the ground”) and satellite remote sensing data intelligence (“eyes in the sky”) to help banks and insurers build credit profiles, evaluate risk scores, validate and monitor portfolio performance with better transparency.
We are further piloting our post-harvest platform, “AquaBazzar,” which connects farmers directly with processors/seafood buyers with complete traceability. We are expecting a commercial launch before the end of this year.
What is Aquaconnect’s traction to date?
At present, we are working with about 35,000+ fish and shrimp farmers across India, up from
2,000 farmers in 2017, and we have established a ground presence in four major production states. We have about 15% of Indian shrimp farmers using our advisory app to access our services.
Are you measuring the impact you’re having on farmer livelihoods?
Our technology intervention helps farmers adopt sustainable farming and improve productivity by up to 15%, while lowering production costs. Also, the access to low-interest formal credit and insurance eliminates farmers’ dependence on informal lenders and realizes higher profit margins of up to 10%.