India is the world’s largest exporter of frozen seawater shrimps and prawns and the fishermen and seafood farmers plays a vital role in keep the global seafood supply chain going. With the pandemic impacting sea routes too, the shrimp industry has suffered major losses in the past few months, but tech startups are helping revive supply now. Looking to capitalise on the opportunity, freshwater fish and seafood supply chain platform Captain Fresh has raised $2.3 Mn in Pre-Series A funding led by Ankur Capital with participation from Incubate Fund India and Silicon Valley based angel investors.
As per marine feed supplier Avanti Feeds, India’s shrimp farming sector, which has seen production grow by around 21% per year over the last decade, is expected to cut down production by 20% due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With an estimated $4.44 Bn worth of exports in 2018, India is not only the biggest exporter of frozen shrimp and prawns but a vital link in the global food chain. Here, agritech and supply chain startups are helping farmers predict demand and adjust inputs and thereby manage operations more efficiently in low-demand situations. Startups such as Aquaconnect and Captain Fresh use the tech that powers logistics platforms and apply it to freshwater fish, seafood and farm-produced fish and shrimps to retailers and around the world.
Founded in April 2019 by former investment banker Utham Gowda, Captain Fresh offers technology solutions for demand-supply matching, e-auctions for sourcing of produce, creating a standardised supply flow as well as maintaining digital traceability across the chain. The company also claims to be helping suppliers receive timely payments by offering visibility per order. Supply chain inefficiencies between source to plate lead to an estimated value erosion of 30-50% annually, the company claimed. It said the proceeds of the round would be used to build its plans around computer vision, Internet of Things, automation bots, data analytics to digitise and drive efficiencies across the seafood supply chain. Additionally, it will expand to new cities and add key hires.
Captain Fresh works with brands across retail and trade channels as well as online meat and seafood delivery startups. The company has previously raised seed funding from Nekkanti Group and Sandhya Aqua, two leading exporters of frozen shrimp in the Indian market. The Bengaluru-based startup claims to be serving more than 120 retail businesses.
In the press statement about the fundraise, Gowda said, “We started with a simple vision to build a fresh fish and seafood platform that the ecosystem could completely trust and rely on for their daily needs. We want to nurture our retail partners’ businesses by providing full availability, range and high-quality fresh supplies on a daily basis. For suppliers, we want to provide the comfort of working with a trustworthy partner who consistently delivers on payment promises. Our traction and positive customer feedback in the last 12 months have validated the real need for what we are building. It has boosted our confidence in playing an active and critical role in uplifting the overall ecosystem.
Investors Taking Captain Fresh Global
Incubate Fund India founder and general partner Nao Murakami added that fresh fish and seafood is an inefficient and unorganized industry with space for technology to disrupt the market. The fund is looking to connect Captain Fresh to the Japanese market, which has the second highest country-wise seafood consumption in the world.
“As Incubate Fund is a Japanese-origin fund, we can bring best practices in supply chain innovations and support potential collaborations between Captain Fresh and Japanese companies. We are excited to join Captain Fresh’s journey.”
In terms of competition, Captain Fresh will have to contend with Chennai-based Aquaconnect, which is backed by agritech investors Omnivore and HATCH. Aquaconnect raised a seed round of $1.1 Mn in September 2019 to build on its big data and artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled mobile application FarmMOJO, which advises farmers on their pond operations based on constant monitoring of the pond and other data capture by IoT sensors. Selected by Inc42 as part of the agritech startup watchlist for 2020, Aquaconnect is currently in the process of setting up Aquaconnect stores around the shrimp farm regions of Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.