Ramaraju Lakkamraju is the co-founder of CEO of Hyderabad based Innasoft Technologies Pvt. Ltd. He started the company with his brother, Suribabu, and their team has built websites and mobile apps for a host of businesses across India. Growing up in Andhra Pradesh on the eastern coast of India, their family has been into aqua farming and so when Uppalapati Naresh approached them with the idea around the subject, they didn’t think twice to take it up.
Aqua farming is not a subject oft spoken about. Also known as aquaculture, it is the farming of aquatic organisms and plants under controlled conditions. Different from fishing, aquaculture has a history dating back to 6,000 BC. If one looks only at fishes, the total world production of fisheries in 2012 was 158 million tonnes, of which aquaculture contributed 66.6 million tonnes (42 per cent). In India, two types of aquaculture are practiced: freshwater aquaculture and brackishwater aquaculture. Freshwater aquaculture involves the breeding of freshwater fish like carp, catla, rohu, freshwater prawn etc. Brackishwater aquaculture involves breeding of fish that habitat the sea like sea bass, grey mullet, tiger shrimp and mud crabs. Andhra Pradesh ranks first in coastal aquaculture and fresh water aquaculture (source).
“The aqua farming industry has seen no technology intervention and it is about time something was done,” says Ramaraju. The problems are like in any other industry: the end users (farmers in this case) have to deal with a lot of middlemen and pay a heavy price, while the manufacturers or producers don’t have good distribution channels. Hence, Aquall was built to serve as a marketplace for aquaculture products straight to the aqua farmers. “Aqua-all” aims to be the one-stop place for all the supply of aquaculture related products all over India.
But are the farmers online? The team at Innasoft is positive about it. “We are in the marketing phase and it’s a tough road ahead but many aqua farmers possess smartphones and are reasonably tech savvy,” says Ramaraju. Aquall is spreading the word by sending bulk SMSes and the online channel is more of a bridge to enable farmers and others to look at what is available. Farmers can also fill up a simple form with their requirements and Aquall takes care of the rest.
Aquall has an interesting range of products: seed, feed, aerators, harvesters etc. It also has some technicians onboard. “The main reason for starting Aquall is to solve aquaculture farmer problems in india. India an active aquaculture producing country, with more than 10 per cent of the global variety of seafood farming being cultivated here,” says Ramaraju. He goes on to mention that India ranks second in the world with an annual seafood production of about 9.06 million metric tonnes. Since the 90s, industrial-scale aqua farms have mushroomed all over India and this is to meet the population requirement globally. “With the Indian government encouraging coastal areas to nurture aqua farming, the need for aquaculture supplies has increased at a rapid rate,” he says.
Aquall claims that aqua farmers in India experience substantial challenges from starting aquaculture to buying aqua inputs and finally selling their yield at best market price. This is the chain they want to enter. A lot of education will also have to go in. “We will provide elaborate guidance on every aspect of feed to be provided, each kind of seed variety, and different chemicals and aerators to be used with price negotiations on the manufacturer and distributor provided cost,” says Ramaraju.
An attempt to buy aquaculture products online yields some results from Indiamart and Alibaba. There are a few other companies like Seao and Sagar Aquaculture which are also in the space. Talking about agriculture, there have been new developments in the technology startup space. M-commerce platform AgroStar raised USD four million from IDG Ventures, Mumbai-based Eruvaka Technologies and many others have been building momentum. For Aquall, it is still very early days but definitely a good starting point to bridge the online and offline divide in aqua farming.
(image credit: Aquafeed)
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