Many aquaculture 4.0 innovations are now available on the market. Examples include auto feeders that intelligently adjust feeding frequency and amount based on the fishes’ appetite, minimizing feed wastage; aerators that turn on only when oxygen levels drop below a threshold, cutting down on power bills; and smart connected sensors that continuously monitor water conditions and weather events, notifying farmers to intervene when needed. With such beneficial innovations available, the focus now should be to increase adoption. Here, we discuss examples and strategies to increase aquaculture 4.0 adoption in the Asia-Pacific region, which produces 86%  of the world’s aquaculture output by value.
Offer leasing business model for aquaculture 4.0 solutions
No new technology in agri-food, however effective, will see widespread adoption if affordability issues are not addressed. Indeed, most farms in Asia are small-scale family farms that may have limited financial resources. To address this challenge, eFishery, an Indonesia-based startup is offering farmers the choice of either buying or leasing their smart feeding devices for a monthly fee. Going further, these connected smart farms would have an unprecedented level of accountability, transparency and traceability. These data could allay concerns about creditworthiness, opening up new funding opportunities from more risk adverse investors.
Beyond affordability, a leasing model also reduces obsolescence risk for farmers, as the aquaculture 4.0 industry is still rapidly evolving. More important than providing a regular stream of revenue, the leasing model would also give tech players better access to real-world data on how their systems perform. Real-world data is absolutely crucial for machine learning and iterative improvement of their systems, making the leasing model valuable for both parties.
Tap into existing networks with strategic partnerships
Most aquaculture 4.0 solutions providers today are either startups or electronics manufacturers. In the initial stage, they may struggle to build a strong customer relationship with farmers in the field. Hence, strategic partnerships would be key to quickly build up trust and form a viable customer base. One group of relevant partnership candidates would be aquaculture feed manufacturers. Nutreco, a feed manufacturer based in the Netherlands, invested in Eruvaka, an aquaculture IoT solution provider based in India. Vertically integrated feed producers such as Thailand-based CP Group, who have their own farming operations, could be even better candidates. CP Group have announced a partnership with the Japanese startup Umitron, to improve shrimp farming technology. Apart from benefiting their own internal shrimp farming operations, it could be a business opportunity for CP Group to eventually license the technology to their feed customers.
A second group of important partners would be connectivity providers. To further lower operation cost for their customers, eFishery partnered with major Indonesian mobile operator Telkomsel, to develop a narrowband IoT protocol. This partnership allowed eFishery systems to connect over mobile data network in a cost-effective manner. For very remote or offshore aquaculture operations however, mobile data is not feasible. Satellite communication providers such as Iridium or the upcoming SpaceX Starlink constellation could be invaluable partners. With the cost of satellite launch dropping fast, satellite connectivity should soon become affordable.
Add value with integrated aquaculture systems
Farms in Asia have traditionally adopted integrated rice-aquaculture farming, where freshwater fish are reared in the flooded rice cultivation fields. Modern technology can open up more integrated systems options, maximizing farmers’ revenue from existing land area. China-based Tongwei Group is demonstrating the feasibility of integrating aquaculture and renewable energy production by installing solar panels and wind turbines over ponds. By connecting farms to the electricity grid, farmers can sell surplus power for extra revenue and help build a more sustainable, resilient and decentralized power grid. This integrated system may be part of the future in Asia, where the population boom and rising standards of living are straining both food and energy supply.
There are huge opportunities for technology players to enter aquaculture in the Asia-Pacific market. Several strategic options can help them penetrate faster in the market including offering an affordable leasing option while collecting real-world data, partnering with players at the interface, or increasing their value proposition by integrating with renewable energy systems.
About the author
Warren, Consultant in the Alcimed Asia-Pacific team
 Global Aquaculture, MarketLine Industry Profile (July 2018)
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