Interviews

An Interview with the Founder & CEO of Aquaconnect, Rajamanohar Somasundaram

aquaconnect

Aquaconnect is a Chennai based company, which was co-founded by Rajamanohar Somasundaram in 2017. It is a full-stack aquaculture technology venture that works with shrimp and fish aquaculture farmers to improve their farm productivity and market linkage through AI and satellite remote sensing technology. 

How AquaConnect is working in the aquaculture world?  

Around 1 million rural farmers and coastal communities depend on shrimp & fish aquaculture, where traditional farming practices prevents them in achieving production efficiency and diseases prediction. We set out to disrupt and simplify this process. We built Aquaconnect, an AI-driven advisory solution that helps farmers improve productivity, predict disease and ultimately achieve higher farm income (up to 5 per cent). Our AI advisor records production data such as water quality parameters, feed inputs, health status and biomass conversion. Aquaconnect understands the farm’s needs inherently based on the input given by the farmer as well as the data captured by the IoT platforms. It derives Production efficiency model, disease prevention model from the 4 important inputs received from the farmers. Suggestions based on these models help farmers improve production efficiency (offering better water quality management, prediction on diseases, better feed management). Eventually improves the farm revenue, quality and traceability. We have also developed an app in which farmers can easily access and benefit in aqua cultivation. 

What problem is Aquaconnect solving? 

Yes… Our AI-driven approach continuously monitors the farm operations and favours real-time analysis of culture. It helps farmers in the daily management of culture growth, such as optimize feeding, diseases prediction & management and advice farmers from time to time. The company helps rural farmers and coastal communities by reducing the dependency on technicians in daily culture operations.  

Aquaconnect is location-aware, context-aware which shall help us offer relevant products at the right time and intervention. It also effectively connects them with up-streams (Processors, Certifying bodies) and downstream (Inputs and healthcare) of the shrimp supply chain. With Aquaconnect data, we connect farmers with formal financial institutions to offer financial assistance and crop insurance.  

Processors and Certifying bodies could leverage this data for sustainable procurement and certification. 

How you became an advisor who helps the farmers?   

I realized that one can utilize technology and techniques like AI and machine learning can bring about huge changes in this sector. There are a lot of decisions that the farmers make without assessing the ground realities. Everything from water quality to the kind of feed that is fed to the baby shrimp is imported. That is how we came up with this 'advisor' which helps the farmers to apply the right techniques. 

Does COVID-19 pandemic have an impact on your organization? 

No, when the whole nation was facing COVID-19 we have seen the growth which was more than 10 times. This is also thanks to growth in the field of the digital media sector. We have not yet faced so much impact but our growth has increased.  

What are the aims, mission and vision of the organization? 

It aims to promote sustainable aquafarming among the farming communities and works with more than 20,000 farmers in various states of India. It is funded by HATCH Fund, Norway and India’s biggest Agritech venture capital Omnivore. Aquaconnect is recognized as World Changing Idea 2020 by Fast Company. The company is also an Innovator at Seafood Innovation Project and Hatch Accelerator, Norwegian Seafood Innovation Cluster. The company is a platinum winner of Agriculture insuretech award by World Bank Group. Aquaconnect shall promote sustainable aquafarming among the farming communities. It will have a positive impact on Indian aqua industry in terms of increased production volume, better diseases management and sustainability. Better traceability for Indian shrimps and it favours premium value in the global market. With the production data, farmers can access to formal financial institutions for crop loans and insurance. Better awareness, adequate investments and exposure to technology can boost seafood production and broaden India’s export market tremendously and adding value to GDP.  

We envisage on Aquaculture being a viable and profitable occupation and encourage farmers to take up this activity for creating entrepreneurship and rural employment 

What are your achievements in Aquaconnect as a company and tell us about your future plans?  

Yes… In terms of achievements by the World Economic Forum, I was in the “Young Global Leaders 2012” in recognition of the contribution in the mobile communication services for emerging markets. Even ‘TED Fellow’ in 2016 and I was also offered Draper Hills Fellowship at Stanford’s CDDRL for our work on technology interventions for inclusion. Our team has been named among the TR35 - TOP 20 Young Innovators in India and won ‘Social Innovator of the year 2012’ by MIT Tech Review India for the development of speech-enabled mobile solutions for the Indian market. 

To develop aqua bazaar and aqua credit where farmer can list their products and sell it on the online platform.  

This interview was taken by Pritam Kashyap, Journalist, Krishi Jagran on September 16, 2020 via telephone. We look forward to more interactions and collaborations in the future as well. 

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