While studying aquaculture at Indonesia’s Bandung Institute of Technology, Gibran Huzaifah started a catfish farm. By the time he graduated, Huzaifah had 75 catfish ponds. Seeking ways to improve his yields, he drew from his own experience and discussions with other farmers, and realized that the inefficiency of manual feeding is a bottleneck for fish farmers.
“Feeding makes up about 70–90% of the total fish farming cost. By feeding manually, much of the feed is wasted and pollute the water. From there, I got the idea to build a smart feeding system called eFisheryFeeder,” Huzaifah told KrASIA.
Feeder is a device that allows farmers to provide food to their fish remotely, handling the process with a wifi-connected controller box and smartphones. Farmers can set feeding schedules, and the machine has a sensor that can determine the appetite of the fish, so it knows when they are full and stops releasing food pellets.
By utilizing Huzaifah’s invention, fish farmers can ensure that the right amount of feed is dropped into fish ponds at the right time. “With more optimal feeding, it also helps speed up fish maturity so farmers can harvest quicker, from six months to four months, on average. This leads to better productivity and increased annual income,” he said.
The feeder was the first product built by Huzaifah’s eFishery startup, which was founded in 2013. It logs various types of data, like how much feed is used and the brands that farmers prefer, and provides alerts when it’s time to restock feed. The startup also built a marketplace called eFisheryFeed that connects farmers with manufacturers directly, so they can buy feed in larger quantities at a cheaper price. It also allows them to participate in group buying arrangements with other farmers for even better deals.
That led to the development of yet another service. “As time progresses, many farmers came to us and asked if they could buy feed on installment. This led us to create a pay-later service called eFisheryFund,” Huzaifah said. Fish farmers have difficulties obtaining loans from conventional financial institutions, so eFishery partners with a number of banks and peer-to-peer (P2P) fintech lending platforms such as Alami and Investree to give fish farmers a financial lifeline.
“Since we collect data from the Feeder, we can do credit scoring for the farmers’ business, analyze their performance, and find out which farmers are reliable. We set credit limits based on that information,” Huzaifah explained, adding that eFisheryFund has approved nearly IDR 50 billion (USD 3.38 million) in credit since it was introduced in January.
“Our average credit limit is IDR 85 million (USD 5,800) per farmer, which is much larger than small business financing programs from the government that range from IDR 25 million to 40 million (USD 1,700 to 2,700). However, we don’t provide cash loans to ensure that farmers use their credit only to fund their business.”
Finally, the startup has a business-to-business (B2B) marketplace platform named eFisheryFresh, which lets farmers sell their fish directly to restaurants, hotels, and other culinary businesses. The firm also has 50 eFisheryPoints, which are locations where farmers can get eFishery products, sell their fish, and attend training. The startup aims to grow this number to 100 by the end of this year.
So far, eFishery has worked with thousands of freshwater fish and shrimp farmers in 24 provinces across Indonesia. It also has piloted its service in Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh, and India. “We work with local partners in those markets to get data and see how people respond to our product. However, we’ll remain focus on Indonesia for the next two years before expanding regionally.”
To date, the startup has raised USD 5.2 million from various big-name investors, according to Crunchbase. Its latest funding was raised in August in undisclosed Series B round, co-led by Northstar Group and Go-Ventures. “Our business model is pretty straightforward, we make revenue based on subscriptions for eFisheryFeeder, and we take margins from manufacturers who sell their products through eFisheryFeed.”
Moving forward, the firm plans to enhance its tech capabilities and expand the scale of services, especially feed and funding, “Currently, only 7% of farmers are using funding services and we want to boost this so more farmers will make transactions through our platforms,” Huzaifah said.
This article is part of KrASIA’s “Startup Stories” series, where the writers of KrASIA speak with founders of tech companies in South and Southeast Asia.