Disclosure: AgFunder, AFN’s parent company, is an investor in Aquaconnect.
The Chennai-based startup is digitalizing the seafood production value chain, connecting smallholder fish and shrimp farmers with suppliers and customers to create what it claims is “South Asia’s largest aqua-farmers’ network.” It works with more than 30,000 producers across the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Odisha, and Tamil Nadu.
India is among the world’s top-three seafood producing countries along with China and Indonesia, and is the leading exporter of prawns and shrimp.
However, the domestic industry is plagued with inefficiencies in everything from outdated farming practices to poor logistical infrastructure and opaque sales channels, making it difficult for farmers to diversify their business or increase their income.
Farmers can use Aquaconnect’s mobile app to access a range of tech-based tools, expert advisory services, and financial products which can help them to maximize yields and income.
The startup offers predictive software for pond management which allows farmers to enhance the productivity of their operations and avoid risks such as disease. Through its Aquastore marketplace, farmers can buy inputs and have them delivered; while then platform also lets them work with financial services providers and certification bodies, and sell their produce to buyers across the globe in a traceable and transparent manner.
Aquaconnect also operates physical ‘touchpoints’ — which it calls AquaHUBs — in locations across the country, giving farmers a face-to-face option if needed.
“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,” founder and CEO Raj Somasundaram said in a statement.
Aquaconnect — which he launched in 2017 — will use the pre-Series A funds to strengthen its fintech offering, while also boosting the volume of seafood exports it handles.
This explains why Flourish Ventures — better known as an investor in fintech startups — decided to take a lead in this round alongside Rebright Partners.
“Raj and his team have developed a platform that uses data and technology to help farmers maximize their income, access financial services, and connect with customers,” said Flourish investment director Anuradha Ramachandaran.
“Aquaconnect is a compelling example of how financial services that are integrated with popular platforms can empower small businesses and enhance their owners’ livelihoods, reflecting the importance of embedded finance as an investment thesis for Flourish.”