Technology for Fish Farming

e-Fishery CEO on how automation and cloud data can help boost farmer productivity

By Gilang Ardana and Karmila Bain
Thursday, April 12, 2018

On first thought, Indonesia’s aquaculture industry is an unlikely candidate for technological disruption. But Gibran Huzaifah, CEO of e-Fishery, has successfully introduced the Internet of Things (IoT) to fish farming. Gibran founded the startup in 2013, and it was the first Indonesian IoT startup to receive venture capital investment.

As a catfish farmer, Gibran decided to address the problem of feed efficiency by creating a smart fish feeder controlled by an app. The product is now used by fish farmers in regions including Java, Lampung, Bali and Sumbawa.

AmCham Indonesia spoke with Gibran about e-Fishery and how it utilizes technology to help farmers boost their productivity.

AmCham Indonesia: What problems are you trying to solve with e-fishery?

Gibran Huzaifah: e-Fishery focuses on fish and shrimp farming. The problem we are trying to solve is related to feed. As background, feed accounts for 70-90 percent of the total operational cost of fish farming. The current practice nowadays for feeding is still manual – fishermen hand-feed directly to the pond without exact measurement. It is not cost-effective. Furthermore, not all feed is eaten by the fish, hence overfeeding is happening, which leads to decreasing water quality that eventually affects the fish.

Conventional feeding is also prone to feed stealing, as people assigned to feeding often steal the feed and sell it to other farmers. This is common in fish farming. With e-Fishery we are creating technology to avoid those problems. We created the “smart feeder,” an automated feeding machine that can be controlled with an app. Farmers can monitor the feeding process remotely and can track how many kilograms of feed have been given. We also designed the app to work in low connectivity zones (such as 2G) so it can be used optimally by farmers. Currently we have users from West Java and Lampung as our biggest customers. We are also expanding to Central Java, East Java, Bali and Sumbawa. The smart feeder costs RP 7.8 million [for fish] and Rp 8.7 million [for shrimp], or it can be rented for Rp 300,000 [for fish] and Rp 600,000 [for shrimp] per-month.

How does this product affect the productivity of fish farmers?

You need to know first about the feed conversion ratio (FCR) for me to answer this question. The FCR refers to feed efficiency, basically how much feed are needed to harvest one kilogram of fish. If the FCR is 2, we need 2 kilograms of feed to harvest 2 kilograms of fish. The lower the FCR the better. The use of our smart feeder can lower the FCR by 20-25 percent. Considering feed accounts for 70-90 percent of total cost, this is an effective cost saving for farmers.

Second, the smart-feeder affects the growth of the fish, as we use a machine, we can feed the fish more often in smaller portions. Hence, we can accelerate the growth of the fish by 30 percent, eventually leading to a higher annual harvest. It is also cuts operational costs for electricity and human resources.

What challenges did you face when first introducing this product?

We still have many farmers rejecting the idea of using the smart feeder. It is understandable, what we are selling is basically a tech product to lower middle income people who have experience in conventional fish feeding for 20-30 years. Thus, the openness to technology adoption is low.

However, we need to realize that every technology needs a process to be adopted. It is a challenge for us to convince them that the technology can make their lives better. There will be early adopters and we can empower them to be role models for others.

How do you respond to the fear automation will affect jobs?

We do realize that automation is a potential threat to the conventional labor industry. Yet so far we don’t see any cases of farmers firing their staff after using our products. In fact, what we are seeing is that it is not that easy for farmers to find staff to help them. Young people tend to prefer leaving their village and working in cities. For the ones who stay, the workload in fish farming is tough and they prefer to do drive ojeksand other similar jobs instead. So there is actually a shortage and we are providing a solution.

Are you planning to expand your services?

Now we are focusing on the smart feeder as our main service, yet one of the values from our product is data. We use the cloud to store data generated from our products and we aim to add more services using the data. The data itself is uncompromised, real-time data from the field using sensors embedded in the feeder, hence guaranteeing its validity. We are the only company that can easily generate data on feeding and fish behavior in specific locations.

We will develop other services from our cloud capability. For instance, we can use the data for credit scoring farmers – to assess their business operations as a reference for banks. From the data we can also help farmers predict harvesting time and the quantity of the harvest. We can help to sell the harvest – based on the data – to restaurants before harvest time so farmers can effectively distribute the harvest and get higher returns, as we help to shorten the distribution chain and ease out the middlemen.

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