Aquaconnect promotes sustainable aquaculture (growing fish and shrimp) through technology intervention. The Chennai based startup is focused on using of artificial intelligence, IoT and satellite remote sensing to improve Indian aquaculture productivity and make India the world’s aquaculture hub. The startup was started in 2017 by IITK alumnus Rajamanohar Somasundaram, who is the Co-Founder & CEO, with Shanmuga Sudararaj and Sanjai Kumar, to become a global full-stack aquaculture technology venture to offer data-driven farm advisory solutions and market place solutions to shrimp and fish farmers.
In India, shrimp and fish farming is the popular livelihood activities for millions of farmers in the coastal and rural regions, where traditional farming practices prevent them in achieving production efficiency and diseases prediction. “We sensed a need for automating farm management, disease prediction through data sciences. Aquaconnect improves the aquaculture industry through an ecosystem-based approach by first digitalising data produced and consumed along the entire value chain throughout the lifecycle of the aquatic animals for analytics-driven data-informed decisions. Secondly, improving farmers’ livelihoods through enhanced access to knowledge, input, finance, and market leveraging players on the value chain,” says Somasundaram.
The startup set out to disrupt and simplify this process. “We built FarmMOJO, an AI-driven advisory solution that helps farmers improve productivity, predict disease and ultimately achieve higher farm income (up to 5-10 per cent). Our AI advisor records production data such as water quality parameters, feed inputs, health status, and biomass conversion,” states Somasundaram.
“Our AI-driven approach continuously monitors the farm operations and favours real-time analysis of culture. It helps farmers in the daily management of culture growth, such as optimise feeding, disease prediction and management, and advice farmers from time to time. FarmMOJO helps rural farmers and coastal communities by reducing the dependency on technicians in daily culture operations,” he informs.
The target customers are aquaculture farmers in India and SEA countries. The startup has a network has about 4200+ farmers in Andhra, Tamil Nadu, and Gujarat. “Now, 1350+ farms have been made smart farms with the Farm MOJO implementation. FarmMOJO offers complete AI assistance to farmers throughout the culture, from stocking to harvest,” remarks Somasundaram.
Pointing out that it lowers the cost of production by efficient feed usage, he explains, “The growth of the animal depends on the right feed usage. Optimising the usage of feed and other farm inputs bring the efficiency in farming and help farmers to have better returns from the farms.” FarmMOJO’s AI models “Opti-Febicon”, and “Morby-Mass” helps farmers to reduce 20-30 per cent feed cost through its feed efficiency model.
“Through our data intelligence, we connected farmers directly to the market place and helped them sell 1000MT+ of shrimp to importers. The traceability data of the shrimp has improved their commodity value up to 5 per cent in the processors,” he adds.
FarmMOJO facilitates traceability from point of production to point of consumption. Adding that, FarmMOJO is location-aware, context-aware, it can offer relevant products at the right time and right intervention, Somasundaram remarks, “FarmMOJO also effectively connects farmers with upstreams (hatcheries, feed and healthcare producers) and downstream (processors, certifying bodies, BFSI – Banking, Financial Services, and Insurers) of the aquaculture supply chain.”
Aquaculture in India has evolved as a viable commercial farming practice and has been showing an impressive annual growth rate of 10-15 per cent every year. “India’s seafood exports are valued at around US$ 7 billion in 2018. India stands top on shrimp production and it contributes 70 per cent of Indian aquaculture export value. India ranks second in aquaculture production and third in marine fisheries,” mentions Somasundaram, reminding that though it is a multibillion-dollar industry, it still lacks the technology adoption and efficiency it is expected to have.
With FarmMOJO data, the company connects farmers with formal financial institutions to offer financial assistance and crop insurance. Processors and certifying bodies could leverage this data for sustainable procurement and certification. The introduction of AI brings increase predictability and efficiency in the production of fish and shrimp. Stakeholders like banks, financial services and insurance providers can use the data intelligence to create risk management strategies/risk assessment to facilitate loans and insurance products to the farmers.
For Aquaconnect, plans for the future in terms of new technologies and strategic expansion, include the following:
- Remote sensing technology for risk management: Partnering with satellite firms for biomass evaluation and credit risk assessment. Satellite enabled remote sensing solutions to complement the FarmMOJO data intelligence. “Remote sensing shall help us scale rapidly into new markets in South East Asia such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand. We are looking at exploring blockchain technologies to enable complete traceability support and increase transparency into the aquaculture value chain,” says Somasundaram.
- Disease prediction: AquaConnect is working with IDH – the Sustainable Trade Initiative and Prof. Kenton Morgan, University of Liverpool to improve the accuracy of its disease prediction model “Morby-Mass” to predict diseases well in advance.
- Creation of risk assessment models: To evaluate the creditworthiness of farmers based on the historical data to enable access to financial institutions for crop loans and insurance.
- FarmMOJO for other species: Extending FarmMOJO capabilities to cater various aquatic species to increase the customer base progressively.
Speaking about revolution 2.0, Somasundaram says, “The Government of India is ramping up support for the aquaculture sector, carving out a separate Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry, and Dairying as well as launching the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY).” Also, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has given its approval for 500 fisheries FPOs to be formed in five years period from 2019-20 to 2023-24 to ensure economies of scale for fish farmers. “We are actively discussing with National Fisheries Development Board and state agencies to promote FarmMOJO as a software platform for the FPOs to adopt data drive farming,” affirms Somasundaram.
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