Innovations and Startups: In Indonesia, Sgara brings modernisation and computerisation to shrimp farming.
Indonesia has an active start-up ecosystem which today, matches well with the needs of its expanding shrimp farming industry, eager to modernise. A changeover is also happening with farms being managed by a new generation of entrepreneurs or being passed on to the next generation.
The opportunity is there for an aquaculture start-up like Sgara which aims to help shrimp farmers increase farm efficiency through data analytics. At the “Bandung Start-up Pitching Day 2020”, held to facilitate access to funding as well give exposure to new start-ups, Sgara was voted as the most marketable.
Sgara was started in October 2018 by three founders; Arrival Dwi Sentosa, Christopher Jason Sjarif and Rizky Darmawan. It is focused specifically on shrimp farming; helping shrimp farmers increase farm efficiency through data. It has Sgarabook, a mobile and web-based AI-powered shrimp farm management system. The aim is to help farmers prevent diseases by generating optimal plans for the farm’s future cycles based on the farm’s previous data. As a farming cycle progresses, the system is able to recommend tailored feeding programs and water treatments to ensure an optimal result. The system alerts farmers on unusual water quality parameters and disease predictions in advance to help farmers avoid diseases.
This is the story of Sgara as told by the three founders via email.
The pull factor
It helped that all three founders are second generation shrimp farmers taking over from their parents, but keen to modernise the whole industry. Rizky runs a 60-pond intensive shrimp farm on Sumbawa Island; Christopher has a 8-pond intensive farm also located in Sumbawa, and Arrival Dwi had experience in his uncle’s traditional shrimp farm located in West Java. In terms of training, none of them were specifically trained as aquaculturists.
Christoper and Arrival Dwi were college mates at the Beijing Institute of Technology, both majoring in computer science. Rizky studied aquatic and fisheries sciences at the University of Washington, Seattle and managed his family farm from 2014. Rizky also founded the PMI (Petambak Muda Indonesia), a young shrimp farmers association and is currently its chairman. Arrival Dwi is currently enrolled in Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) graduate school majoring in A.I. development. Marrying these backgrounds with their hands-on training in farm operations gave them the heads-up in pushing for “factory style farming” with data at hand.
“We were exposed to aquaculture because our parents are shrimp farmers. As we learnt more about this industry, we saw that changes were minimal in the direction of modernisation and computerisation. Daily reports are still handwritten and sent around using chat apps. This made data recollection a nuisance especially if you have many ponds and you need to analyse a specific set of data,” said Christopher, CEO. “In the worst case scenario, when farms had a problem, such as a disease outbreak and had managed it well, they had to restart at finding solutions again when the problem reappeared, as data from previous cycles were very disorganised and hence practically unusable. Because of those reasons, we asked ourselves, what if we can streamline data reporting, access all our data easily, and present it as such that we can analyse it day by day, anywhere we want, anytime. Thus, we founded Sgara and created the app.”
It started with the team reaching out to multiple farms to better understand aquaculture and possible improvements. “Both Christpher and I had many ideas such as improving the supply chain, finance, marketing, etc. However, they didn’t work out for us because aquaculture is a complex business and we didn’t have enough time nor the resources, “explained Rizky, CMO.
“Finally, we decided to focus on one product that we believe can help farmers the most; we concentrated our efforts in making a more efficient, accessible and traceable data management system. Hence Sgarabook was born.”
“While doing our research, we saw some limitations that needed to be addressed if our app will ever be used in the farms. The first obvious problem was that most farms are in rural areas with unreliable internet capability. Secondly, not all farms have computers; the only technology that is almost always available in the farms are mobile phones. Lastly, we saw that most people in this industry are seniors and it will be a challenge since they usually have an established working method and might not want to adopt a new one. For those reasons, we decided that Sgarabook had to have mobile capability and the simplest user interface,” added Arrival Dwi, CTO.
At its early stages, Arrival Dwi said that the team struggled in developing Sgarabook. “The complex logic needed within the system made bugs and errors a common occurrence. Each data point in the system is attached to a number of other data and calculations. However, we were lucky to have early adopters that patiently tested our product, gave feedback, and helped us identify problems. One of the most prominent features added from the farmer’s idea is the synthesize feature.”
Nowadays, it is common practice for farmers to ferment feed or add additives. Using the synthesise feature, they can plug in the mixing ingredients to track usage and cost. Finally, after many bug fixes and iterations, Sgarabook was ready to be launched in the market.
Positive feedback from young and old farmers
“When we revealed the final product, Sgarabook received positive feedback from farmers both young and elderly. They even provided us with some new ideas to better cater to their needs. The younger farmers are especially excited since they are more avid with the new technology and efficiency that Sgarabook can enable them to better manage their time,” said Rizky.
Some resistance came from farmers that worried about the security of their data. Nevertheless, we were able to convince them that the data is secure, encrypted, and will not be exploited; the data that we actually gather will be anonymous and only be used to improve our services.”
“We are confident that Sgarabook is better than competing farm management apps on the market because it is by far more comprehensive. Sgarabook can manage all aspects of managing a farm from item usage, water quality, feed trays, shrimp data, and even warehouse stocks. The interface is easy to understand and it is easy to adopt the system through our data import feature. As of now, more than 400 ponds are registered and actively using Sgarabook, new client farms are onboarding our system, and we already formed partnerships with feedmills.”
From here, Sgara has unlimited room to grow. “We have numerous projects lined up to improve and modernize aquaculture. Our next big project is to create an AI that can analyse data and give treatment recommendations based on previous cycles and regional data. When coupled with our marketplace integration, farmers can directly order farm necessities while analyzing farm parameters through the app. On top of that our IoT developers are striving to build better, standardized equipment that can make data collection more accurate,” said Arrival Dwi.
Next is AI and marketplace integration
“Through Sgarabook, we want to help farmers increase their success rate and productivity. By simplifying data analysis and automating tedious calculations, we believe farmers can make better and faster decisions. The farming assistance will also serve as a smarter, data-driven alternative. In addition, we want our product to not just benefit farmers, but also the consumers,” said Rizky.
“More importantly, our dream is that data within Sgarabook is shareable by its owner when a customer demands it. This feature enables the farmers to market seafood that is fully traceable and transparent,” said Christopher.
The team from left, Arrival Dwi Sentosa, Christopher Jason Sjarif and Rizky Darmawan with Haris Muhtadi, Chairman of the Indonesia Feedmills Association (GPMT-Gabungan Perusahaan Makanan Ternak) and Associate Director at PT CJ Feed and Livestock Indonesia (right).
This article was published in issue September/October 2020.