Aqua Exchange Raises $6 Million in Series A Funding Led by Ocean 14

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Traditional aquaculture practices in India lack technological integration for farm management. This results in farmers facing difficulties in optimizing input usage, monitoring water quality, and improving overall yields. Recognizing these challenges, Aqua Exchange leveraged Internet of Things (IoT) technology to introduce devices to farmers with real-time control over feed automation and power management through a user-friendly mobile app. On its mission, Aqua Exchange has raised $6 million in a Series A funding round led by London-based private equity firm Ocean 14, with participation from existing investors Endiya Partners and Accion Venture Labs.

Founded in 2020 by Pavan Kosaraju, Aqua Exchange is at the forefront of transforming aquaculture through innovative technology solutions. The startup offers a full-stack business model that includes farm automation, crop financing, and harvest procurement. The company’s product portfolio features Internet of Things (IoT)-powered feed automation and power management devices, controlled by farmers through a user-friendly app.

“We are impressed and excited by the speed of growth of AquaExchange. In a short time, the company managed to deploy technology across a significant part of the Indian aquaculture landscape, helping to deliver the data, insights, and control that can help stabilise customers’ production, while also developing an end-to-end solution providing access to inputs, offtake and finance,” said Piers Lakin, senior associate of Ocean 14 Capital.

App of Aqua Exchange helping farmers.
App of Aqua Exchange helping farmers.

The AquaBot and PowerMon devices facilitate farm automation, improving visibility for lenders and customers, leading to premium prices and reduced costs for farmers. Along with farm automation, the startup also operates a marketplace that connects aqua farmers with suppliers, streamlining the procurement of seeds, feed, and other essential products.

Aqua Exchange has already automated over 10% of shrimp farms in India, deploying its devices across thousands of acres. With the funding, the start-up aims to scale up its full-stack business model, with a focus on farm automation, crop financing, and harvest procurement. The startup also plans on expanding its presence in select international markets for exporting its innovative devices.

With the aquaculture industry in India growing every year, it has been estimated that the market size of the sector will be $29.37 billion by 2028. This growing market helps provide a platform for startups like AquaExchange to position themselves as a key player by focusing on automating shrimp farms while contributing to the increasing aquaculture output of India.

Commenting on the funding, Kosaraju said, “This round of funding strengthens our position as leaders in the aquaculture technology and fintech sectors. We plan to refine and scale our unique reinforcement framework, wherein farmers are immediately incentivised for sustainable practices through reduced input costs and higher offtake prices, emphasizing our commitment to sustainable practices in the industry.”

Aqua Exchange: Transforming Aquaculture Through Technology

Aqua Exchange was founded by Pavan Kosaraju and is on a mission to revolutionize the aquaculture sector through cutting-edge technology. The company aims to bring transparency and efficiency to the entire aqua sector value chain, with a dedicated focus on adding significant value to aqua farmers, exporters, and all stakeholders within the industry.

Core Team of Aqua Exchange

“The proudest we have been is when we see the smallest of farmers using our technology,” says Pavan Kosaraju, CEO of AquaExchange.

“AquaExchange is committed to transforming aquaculture through technology. This round of funding strengthens our position as leaders in the aquaculture technology and fintech sectors,” Kosaraju adds.

With a commitment to innovation and leveraging the latest technologies, Aqua Exchange involves deploying farmer-facing associates, an intuitive mobile application, and proprietary Machine Learning techniques to capture precise data at every stage of the aquaculture value chain. This data is then transformed into valuable and timely insights, empowering farmers and stakeholders to make informed decisions.

Aqua Exchange’s Innovative Journey in Shrimp Farming Transformation

As the CEO of Aqua Exchange Agritech Pvt Ltd., Pavan Kosaraju brings a diverse background in engineering, finance, and aquaculture to the forefront of his entrepreneurial venture. After earning his engineering degree from the IIT, he pursued an MBA in financial risk management at the European School of Management Technology in Berlin. His journey took a meaningful turn when he returned to his hometown of Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh which is a region known for shrimp farming in India.

“India has a good, robust banking system but shrimp farms weren’t taking advantage of it and that piqued my interest,” Kosaraju told the Advocate. “With my background in finance, I quit my job and went on a journey to better understand the data ecosystem surrounding India’s shrimp farms. I spent a few months across the value chain and discovered that financial institutions were staying away because of a lack of transparency or data visibility. If you want to ensure financial help, you have to start at the beginning with the primary actors – in other words, the farmers. That is how AquaExchange was born.” says Kosaraju.

Observing the challenges faced by shrimp farmers firsthand, Kosaraju identified a critical gap in the sector, that is, limited financial support. Motivated to improve the lives of Indian shrimp farmers, he pioneered a range of patented flagship Internet of Things (IoT) products. These innovations, including PowerMon and AquaBot, were aimed at enhancing productivity and profits for shrimp farmers in India.

One of the farmers
One of the farmers

“Shrimp farmers, particularly in India, cultivate semi-intensively,” said Kosaraju. “They farm around 100,000 to 200,000 shrimp per acre but the water cannot sustain that many shrimp, so farmers have to infuse additional oxygen. However, this can be unpredictable due to unreliable power, unscheduled power cuts, infrastructure failures along a power line or breakdowns of local transformers or aerators.”

“Farmers also feed their shrimp by hand from a small boat, but this is not always reliable either and feeding patterns can be uneven so some shrimp are overfed and others underfed,” Kosaraju continued. “Hand feeding cannot be measured or tracked, while excessive or uneaten feed results in poor water quality parameters. Aeration and feed problems ultimately result in [dissolved oxygen] issues, water contamination and stress leading to disease and uneven growth.”

Since Aqua Exchange’s establishment in 2020, Kosaraju and his team have demonstrated their commitment by leveraging patented technology to benefit thousands of Indian shrimp farmers. One of their invention PowerMon is a power management tool which uses machine learning techniques to continuously monitor power consumption on shrimp farms. When disruptions occur in electricity, the system alerts the relevant person before notifying farmers through immediate mobile alerts or calls. Another technology used by Aqua Exchange is AquaBot which is a solar-powered automatic feeder that moves across the water while distributing feed efficiently and reducing manual intervention, resulting in optimal Feed Conversion Ratios (FCRs).

“We are bringing viability and sustainability into shrimp farming,” said Kosaraju. “Our solutions help farmers with higher reliability and efficiencies in terms of aeration and feed management, while providing ROIs (return on investment) within the first couple of months of usage. By tracking power usage and feeding efficiency, we can tell farmers how much electricity they have saved on their farm every month or how their shrimp are growing. When a farmer has proper data visibility like this, the result is financial support and less input costs. The farmer has better control, reducing the risks and bringing costs down so that their margins improve.”

Distribution of products
Distribution of products

Aqua Exchange has successfully automated more than 40,000 acres, producing over 100,000 tons of shrimp annually. The company’s unique pay-as-you-use subscription model, priced at two dollars per acre per month, has gained widespread adoption, with over 15% of India’s shrimp farms subscribing. This model helps mitigate the upfront capital costs for farmers and facilitates low-cost interest loans from banks. The platform, powered by data from Aqua Exchange’s devices, supports farmers with additional resources such as vibrio kits, fermentable probiotics, and traceability solutions.

Apart from bringing numerous benefits to the farmer, Aqua Exchange also aims to contribute to positive environmental impacts. By reducing electricity consumption and improving feeding efficiency, the company plays a role in decreasing carbon emissions in India. With innovative solutions that are designed to benefit shrimp, the environment, and farmers globally, Aqua Exchange hopes to drive positive changes in the shrimp farming sector.

“Over the last eight to 10 years, vannamei production has exploded in India,” said Kosaraju. “When something happens that fast, it’s natural for inefficiencies to creep in because there is so much focus on growth. Indian shrimp farming has grown phenomenally but over the last couple of years, this growth has plateaued. Now is the time to reflect on each stage of the farming process. We can help farmers address the challenges in adapting to the new world, not just in India but also worldwide.” said Kosaraju.

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