Indonesian entrepreneur seeks to tackle world hunger

Startup offers fish farmers a low-cost yet efficient feeder for improving productivity

Original news from Nikkei Asian Review – SHOTARO TANI and ERWIDA MAULIA, Nikkei staff writers

Indonesian startup eFishery allows fish farmers to control and monitor feeding through a smartphone app. (Photo by Shinya Sawai)

 

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JAKARTA — It was the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in 2007. Gibran El Farizy, a student at the Bandung Institute of Technology in West Java in Indonesia, was starving.

Farizy’s parents were late sending his monthly allowance of 600,000 rupiah (about $45 at the current exchange rate), and he barely had enough money to buy the cheap soft drink he wanted to break his fast with. For three days, he relied on a few dates and water to break the fast, and just water before dawn prior to resuming his fast the next day.

He eventually received the money from his parents, but his experience, along with an article he read in a local paper about children dying of starvation, led him to try to tackle the problem of world hunger.

Farizy went on to establish eFishery, an Indonesian startup aimed at making fish farming more efficient, and, crucially, more productive. He founded the company, which primarily produces automatic fish-feeding machines, in 2013.

The device allows fish and shrimp farmers to schedule feeding times through a monitoring app on their smartphones. For example, a farmer could release 150 grams of feed at 7 a.m., 50 grams at 3 p.m., and 100 grams at 11 p.m., and the motorized feeder will disperse the food pellets evenly across a fish pond.

The feeder, which can cover ponds of up to 100 square meters, is sold in two sizes. The 12kg container costs 6.7 million rupiah ($490), and a 65kg container is priced at 7.9 million rupiah, including the charge for the monitoring software. EFishery also offers a rental option for 300,000 rupiah a month.

“[The autofeeder] is good,” said Petrus Rumambi Gumantio, who has been farming catfish for the past seven years, aside from his job as a low-rank civil servant in Lampung province. He uses six small ponds in the backyard of his home to harvest the fish, and he said the process usually took three to four months. Since he began using eFishery’s feeder less than a year ago,¬†Gumantio¬†has been able to use less feed — 700kg from the previous 1 ton — and he said it now takes less time to harvest the catfish.

“I only had to arrange [the feeding times and volumes] using a smartphone once, and now I don’t have to rush home from the office every time to feed [the fish],” he said.

The company is currently developing an in-pond sensor, which it hopes to release before the end of this year, which will track how hungry the fish are by their movement and the ripples in the water. According to the company, fish swim “more aggressively” when they are hungry, creating more waves. The sensor will be activated during feeding times to detect the ripples or lack thereof in the water, and will automatically stop feeding if the fish are no longer hungry.

Gibran El Farizy, CEO of eFishery (Photo by Shinya Sawai)