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Impact investor Omnivore backs aquaculture platform Aquaconnect
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Aquaconnect, a network of fish farmers, said on Wednesday it has raised $1.1 million (Rs 7.78 crore) in a seed round of funding from impact investor Omnivore and accelerator HATCH.

Aquaconnect will use the money to expand its team, enhance its artificial intelligence-enabled platform and increase the fulfilment capabilities of its omnichannel marketplace, co-founder and CEO Raj Somasundaram said in a statement.

“We aim to reach 15,000 shrimp and fish farmers across India and Indonesia by December 2020,” he added.

Aquaconnect, operated by Coastal Aquaculture Research Institute Pvt. Ltd, was founded in 2017. It currently has a network of 3,000 shrimp farmers across India and Indonesia.

Its mobile application, FarmMOJO, which uses AI and predictive analytics, helps farmers tackle disease management efficiently and thus minimise costs. Its omnichannel marketplace helps farmers transact with feed producers, laboratories, equipment makers, hatcheries, processors, exporters, certification bodies, banks and insurers.

India produces almost 700,000 tonnes of farmed shrimp annually and the size of the country's aquaculture sector is pegged at $7.1 billion, the statement said.

"The government of India is ramping up support for the aquaculture sector, carving out a separate Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry, and Dairying as well as launching the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana," said Mark Kahn, managing partner, Omnivore.

Aquaconnect had raised angel funding from HATCH at the aquaculture-focused startup accelerator's inaugural cohort in Bergen, Norway, last year.

Co-founder Somasundaram, an IIT Kanpur Alumnus, is a serial entrepreneur. He had previously founded Hexolabs, a mobile technology startup that operated across Asia and Africa.

Another co-founder Sanjai Kumar, who graduated from Annamalai University, is an experienced aquaculture farmer while the third co-founder Shanmuga Sundara Raj was in leadership roles at insurance companies such as ICICI Prudential, Canara HSBC and Kotak Life in his previous stints.

Aquaconnect’s seed funding round adds to the growing number of early-stage bets on agri-tech companies. But the sector has also recorded a couple of significant mid-stage deals, underlining the maturing of the industry.

Tiger Global Management LLC wrote a $90-million cheque to business-to-business agri-marketing platform Ninjacart in April. AgroStar raised $27 million (Rs 187 crore) in its Series C funding round led by Bertelsmann India Investments.

The agri-tech segment is likely to record more mid-stage funding transactions and strategic deals in coming years, as investors look to back entrepreneurs trying to solve pressing problems in the critical farm sector, according to industry executives. 

Investor

The investment in Aquaconnect is Omnivore's second deal in the fish farming segment. It had earlier invested in Eruvaka from its debut fund. Last year, Dutch animal nutrition and aqua feed firm Nutreco led a Series B funding round in Eruvaka.

In April, Omnivore marked the final close of its second fund at $97 million (Rs 679 crore), overshooting the initial target of $75 million.

The new fund has already made five bets including on Chandigarh-based agri-analytics startup AgNext and milk delivery startup Doodhwala.

In March, it co-invested in DeHaat, a Gurugram-based online marketplace for farm products and services, and TartanSense, which builds robots for small farms.

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