Rajamanohar Somasundaram founded Aquaconnect in 2017 after a serendipitous meeting with a shrimp farmer on a train journey to his hometown. Through the course of his interaction with the farmer, Somasundaram, a graduate degree holder from IIT Kanpur, saw an opportunity. “An opportunity to transform aquaculture with the power of technology,” reveals the tech entrepreneur with extensive experience in building the internet and mobile technology-driven businesses.
Consider this: Aquaculture in India has evolved over the last three decades from traditional backyard activity to commercial intensive farming. “India holds a shining spot in world sea-food exports. However, with increasing production capacity and export volumes, the sector is riddled with several challenges underpinned by poor access to formal credit across the value chain,” the founder & CEO at Aquaconnect points out.
With an aim to address these challenges and improve farmer livelihoods, he assembled a team of experts to build intelligent technology solutions that could help improve the journey of fish and shrimp from farm to table in the most efficient way. “We developed an app that was essentially an AI-driven farm advisory platform that would help the farmers adopt sustainable practices and guide them in monitoring and tracking culture operations at every stage, optimising usage of farm inputs, boosting production efficiency, and producing higher-quality shrimp, all while increasing profitability,” Somasundaram says.
Soon, he realised that they were only solving one part of the equation. The aqua-farmers were still facing a challenge with regards to inefficient market linkage, lack of access to quality farm inputs, formal capital, insurance and selling their produce. “It was clear that if we were to disrupt this space, a full-stack approach was the way to go about it. This further led to the launch of a technology driven full-stack aquaculture platform,” Somasundaram says.
Aquaconnect now works with various stakeholders in the aquaculture value chain – from farmers to buyers and its aim is to address the gaps in the aquaculture value chain by bringing the stakeholders together on a single, tech-enabled platform. “Through our unique technology solutions, we have assisted over 60,000+ aquaculture farmers and serve over 27,000 pin codes across India. We currently have a strong physical presence in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Odisha and Tamil Nadu. We are scaling up our operations in West Bengal, North and North-east India this year,” Somasundaram reveals.
Aquaconnect has grown 40x in the FY21-22. “We have raised `98 crore in funding so far—a mix of equity and debt funding, by some of the leading investors like Omnivore, HATCH-Norway, Japan’s Rebright Partners, amongst others,” Somasundaram says.
The company recently raised $8 million in debt funding from Trifecta Capital.
TECH WITH BENEFITS
Aquaconnect combines the elements of human and technology intervention, an approach Somasundaram calls ‘Eyes in the Sky and Boots on the Ground’. Through Aquaconnect’s solutions, farmers have been able to get a better value realisation for their produce by 5-10% and also save upto Rs 50,000 per acre for culture with a 5% reduction in the cost of feeding.