Before founding Jakarta-based agritech startup Baku in 2019, Marvin Joseph Kolibonso was seeking ways to address problems in Indonesia’s agriculture sector. He specifically wanted to improve supply chain infrastructure and improve farmers’ access to methods and tools that could make their operations more efficient.
Although the agriculture sector accounts for nearly 15% of the country’s GDP and employs 30% of Indonesia’s workforce, small-scale farmers have long faced obstacles such as high fragmentation in the supply chain and exploitation by intermediary resellers.
In 2016, Kolibonso co-founded Sayurbox, an online marketplace where farmers can connect directly with consumers to sell their produce and yield. Kolibonso’s co-founders include serial entrepreneur Rama Notowidigdo; Amanda Cole, who ran a farm in West Java at the time; as well as industrial engineer and tech entrepreneur Metha Trisnawat.
But Kolibonso soon realized that there were more imminent issues at stake. Up to 30% of crop loss occurs before harvesting begins. This is due to a number of factors, such as climate conditions and shattering, a natural seed shedding process that can lead to significant losses in crop yield, according to Kolibonso.
Kolibonso realized that these losses could be prevented with the help of sensors that track soil and climate conditions, along with a mobile app that displays this information for farmers. With this idea in mind, he left Sayurbox in 2018 and started his own agritech venture, Baku, the following year.
Baku means “fundamental” in Bahasa Indonesia. The platform offers an app-based dashboard and IoT hardware for poultry farmers to track data and conditions on their farms in real time.
Around 40% of Indonesian poultry production is performed by smallholder farmers who operate traditional open coops, where the climate conditions are not optimal for raising chickens. Plus, heat levels within these coops can lower productivity and lead to a high rate of mortality, according to multiple reports.
Temperature control is key in chicken farming. The ideal temperatures for hatchlings, chicks, and mature chickens that are ready for slaughter vary. Rearing chickens in the wrong temperature range, at the wrong stages of their development, could impact quality and efficiency. “If the weather is too cold, the feed will be used to keep the broiler warm instead of growing them. This feed is then counted as a loss,” Kolibonso said.
This is where Baku’s hardware and applications can improve the process and generate higher yields. To start, a farmer provides information about the farm’s production cycles, including start dates, estimated length of production periods, as well as the type, population, and prices of the one-day-old chicks that are being grown to full size.
Apart from that, farmers also have to specify production targets, their flock size, feed volume, water consumption rate, medicine that has been used, and the flock’s mortality rate. Baku’s hardware system collects environmental data, such as temperature and humidity, in real time.
With the collected data, the application can generate a report for farmers and track the flock’s growth. Baku’s system will also send out alerts via SMS if it detects anomalies in the cages.
The firm monetizes its software service via a subscription package that costs IDR 4,000 (USD 0.28) per day, and charges IDR 800,000 (USD 55) per month for its IoT hardware. “Currently, we have to set up the hardware for the farmers. But our end goal is to deliver the hardware to the farmers, so they can set it up by themselves with the help of our instruction,” Kolibonso explained.
So far, over 200 farmers have signed on to use the service. After optimizing their poultry farming processes, they have recorded a 7% to 10% drop in feed usage, resulting in a reduction of 3 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions per day during the production cycle, according to data compiled by Baku.
But farmers in Indonesia have been slow to adopt agritech services. This is mainly due to low awareness, low digital literacy, and insufficient financial support as formal financial institutions are reluctant to issue loans to smallholder farmers.
To better educate farmers, Baku organizes outreach campaigns in villages to introduce its platform. “Farmers usually have a strong community within the village, so we need to show them how the product will work and let them try it for free. Once they understand the benefits, they will share it with their peers,” Kolibonso said.
Baku is not raising funds from external investors at the moment. Its R&D and buildout are all covered by its existing revenue. “We [will continue to] focus on building solutions for poultry farmers because the demand in this area is increasing by more than 8% per year. Poultry is still the main source of protein for Indonesians. But poultry farmers’ supply still does not meet the demand,” he said.
Baku was among the finalists of the Alibaba Cloud x KrASIA Global Startup Accelerator Vietnam-Indonesia Demo Day that was held on February 10.