The fishtech space in Indonesia is more lucrative than you think. The archipelago is not only home to millions of fish farms but the market size in the Southeast Asian country alone is US$5.4 billion.
As the only manufacturers of a smart fish feeder, Bandung-based IoT startup eFishery is poised to go carpe diem on this market opportunity. Using eFishery, fish and shrimp farmers can schedule feed times and monitor feeding performances right from their mobile devices. Being able to avoid overfeeding their fish can actually reduce costs for farmers by 21 per cent.
Aggressive plans to scale up
After raising a pre-Series A round from Dutch aquaculture investment fund Aqua-spark and Indonesian VC Ideosource a few weeks ago, Co-Founder and CEO Gibran Chuzaefah Amsi El Farizy shared with e27 his plans on aggressively scaling the business, adding a new layer to the business model and also building a new complementary web product.
“We want to focus nationally in the first two years and build distribution channels in several of the big islands in Indonesia,” said El Farizy. “Our target market is scattered around Indonesia so our first step will be local partnerships who are mostly feed manufacturers,” he added.
Up until this point, eFishery has been working with big companies in the aquaculture space but El Farizy’s mission is to help fish farmers build a more sustainable business. Before starting eFishery, El Farizy’s first entrepreneurial pursuit was running his own fish farm which he worked on for four years. So, he understands firsthand the farmers’ paint points.
While the bulk of the sales have been to medium and large companies, El Farizy and his team are concocting a new pricing model that is affordable for small fish farmers. Currently, the product costs around US$400 – $700 per unit, but the new rental fee will set farmers back just US$40 – $100 a month — which can be paid post-harvesting time after the money comes in.
An online marketplace for fish farmers
Also in the works is a data-driven platform where farmers will be able to to sell their products direct to consumer. Within this marketplace, Indonesian fish farmers will be able to connect with buyers directly which will promote more transparency in terms of market prices.
“There is an information gap between the farmers and the markets. Farmers don’t know about the market price and how valuable their fish is, which is how the middle man can take advantage of the farmers to get the lowest price. That’s the worst problem in this industry as it makes the farmer’s business not as profitable. When businesses are not profitable, they shut down and we won’t have any fish to produce and eat,” said El Farizy and noted that catfish is already being imported from Malaysia as of last year.
eFishery collects real-time feeding data which can accurately map where the fish are being produced, by what quantity and the time the product will be harvested. Having access to yield data can help fish farmers build a more profitable business, which will be an area of focus for the government in the coming years.
“There are opportunities to monetise the data and to sell it to the government and manufacturers. The government really wants to focus on developing aquaculture because the capture of fish is really depleting over the years so they want to build fish farms that are sustainable. Aquaculture will be the government’s focus in the next four years,” said El Farizy.
eFishery and its 12-person team have the pedal to the metal, as the next two years will set the stage for the next round of financing — which El Farizy reveals will be a Series A round between US$5 million to $10 million.
Moving fast to keep competition at bay
In the meantime, the startup is executing fast in order to stay ahead of the competition who are a number companies that manufacturer automatic feeders in Thailand and Taiwan. Although it only offers timer-based feeding at the moment, El Farizy isn’t taking any chances. “Our technology isn’t rocket science. People can duplicate it so if we fail to roll out this product to the market as fast as we can, we might get lost in the competition,” he said.
Since its inception in 2012, eFishery is already working with 200 customers and seven distributors within three regions in Indonesia has inked an exclusive partnership with Telkomsel.
While eFishery is the product that has picked up the most traction, the company’s name is actually Cybreed as initial plans were to build solutions for the entire agriculture industry. “In the long term, we want to bring this technology outside of aquaculture. We get a lot of demands from poultry, cow and other livestock farms — the basis of the technology is the same,” he said.
When being called crazy is a good sign
In a region saturated with e-commerce platforms and mobile apps, El Farizy and his team seem to be an exception to the rule. Besides starting up the ‘fishtech’ category which was unheard of until now, they company is hell bent on solving really tough problems that will affect the future of aquaculture in Indonesia.
El Farizy remembers:
“People called me crazy a lot. We got refused by a lot of VCs that said our business isn’t scalable and that the market is not really that big — we received a lot of negative feedback,” he said. “The biggest challenge was to trust ourselves, to really tackle this challenge and to convince our team to believe in us.”
Being called crazy (think Alibaba Founder, aka ‘Crazy Jack’) is likely a sign for the determined innovator to press on and prove those naysayers wrong.
In Indonesia, El Farizy is the one to watch.