Aqua-Spark invests in Indonesian agritech start-up eFishery, African tilapia-grower Lake Harvest Group
Sustainable aquaculture investment fund Aqua-Spark has announced investments in agritech start-up eFishery and tilapia farmer Lake Harvest Group.
Bandung, Indonesia-based eFishery, which offers fish and shrimp farmers an end-to-end platform to access to feed, financing, and markets, raised USD 90 million (EUR 78.9 million) in its Series C round, which closed Tuesday, 11 January. Aqua-Spark previously participated in the start-up’s Series B funding round in August 2020.
The company operates eFarm, an online platform designed to provide information to shrimp-farmers to help them improve their operations; the eFisheryKu App, an integrated platform where fish farmers can purchase their farming supplies; eFeeder, which is designed to optimizes yield days and increases farmers’ production capacity and feed efficiency; eFresh, a downstream technology designed to increase farmers’ purchasing power; and eFund, which links fish farmers directly to financial institutions and offers an installment payment plan for fish-farming equipment and services. More than 7,000 farmers have thus far used eFund services, with its approved loan total exceeding USD 28 million (EUR 24.6 million).
Founded in 2013, eFishery currently serves more than 30,000 farmers across 24 provinces in Indonesia and has scaled its network tenfold since December 2020. It has more than 900 employees.
“We are focused on increasing farmers’ productivity. Through the introduction of new technologies, we’re streamlining the fish- and shrimp-farming business, making the industry more effective, efficient, and sustainable,” eFishery Co-Founder and CEO Gibran Huzaifah said. “This new funding will allow us to scale our impact, expand regionally, and achieve our target of being a leading aquaculture technology company by improving the livelihoods of the farmers that we empower.”
The new funds raised will be used to scale up eFishery’s platform and to strengthen its digital products, Huzaifah said, with the goal of making it the largest digital cooperative for fish and shrimp farming. Most of the funding will be used to increase its staffing and expand its operations and products in Indonesia. The company also said it has a plan for regional expansion that has as primary targets the world’s top 10 countries in aquaculture, including India and China. It has set a goal of acquiring one million farmers as users of its technology within the next five years.
“This funding will gear us to aggressively hire, especially for engineering and product development talent. We aim to recruit a thousand of new employees this year, not only to make an impact for the aquaculture industry in Indonesia, but also on a larger scale, to conquer the global aquaculture supply,” Huzaifah said.
The Series C round also included Temasek, SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Sequoia Capital India, the Northstar Group, Go-Ventures, and Wavemaker Partners as investors.
“Indonesia is one of the world’s largest producers of fish and we believe its aquaculture industry can play a meaningful role in feeding the world’s growing population,” Investment Director at SoftBank Investment Director Anna Lo said in a press release. “eFishery is pioneering the adoption of technology for local fish and shrimp farmers with a complete, integrated platform that supports them to improve productivity across feed supply, production, and the sale of fresh produce. We are delighted to be partnering with the eFishery team to support them to provide a reliable and sustainable supply of aquatic food products to Indonesia and beyond."
Separately, Aqua-Spark has also joined a group of investment funds to back Harare, Zimbabwe-based Lake Harvest Group, one of the largest integrated aquaculture companies in Sub-Saharan Africa. The USD 7 million (EUR 6.1 million) in new funding will go toward augmenting the company’s tilapia-farming operations in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Uganda.
Established in 1997, Lake Harvest Group operates tilapia farms in Lake Kariba and Lake Victoria and a distribution network that stretches through seven countries Eastern and Southern Africa.
"We are very pleased to welcome Aqua-Spark as a new investor. Their values and vision are aligned with the remaining shareholders,” Lake Harvest Group CEO James de la Fargue said. “Aqua-Spark has a long-term investment approach towards sustainable aquaculture and, with its new fund, will focus on Africa in particular. We look forward to working with the Aqua-Spark team and benefitting from both their knowledge and their ecosystem of sustainable aquaculture companies."
In a press release, Aqua-Spark called Lake Harvest “a long-time leader in Sub Saharan Africa.”
“With its own distribution network and processing plant as well as a locally embedded team with decades of experience, Lake Harvest is well-positioned for growth,” Aqua-Spark said. “In addition, the farm is mission-aligned – adopting best practices that include education and training programs for staff as well as the sale of byproducts, antibiotic-free operations, and genetic improvement.”
Aqua-Spark has joined African Century Group and the Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries (NORFUND) as cornerstone shareholders of Lake Harvest. The investment comes as part of Aqua-Spark’s Africa Fund initiative and as part of a new initiative by the fun to launch a subsidiary “focused on building infrastructure through vertically integrated farming platforms that support and stimulate outgrower programs to ignite the growth of a wider aquaculture sector, embedding it in local and regional African economies,” according to the fund.
“Together with Aqua-Spark's existing investments in Africa and farming investments still to come, Lake Harvest will function as one of the key platforms that Aqua-Spark Africa will help build,” it said. “Lake Harvest is already established at a significant scale, which will accelerate the fund reaching its goals of Aqua-Spark Africa.”
"Lake Harvest is a well-established brand for African tilapia with strong footholds in various countries across Eastern and Southern Africa,” Aqua-Spark co-founders and managing partners Mike Velings and Amy Novogratz said in a joint statement. “Aqua-Spark's investment model is an ecosystem in which our investments contribute collectively towards a more sustainable and accessible aquaculture industry. We see ourselves as a committed partner and look forward to contributing to the future success of Lake Harvest and its people as well as the sustainable African aquaculture sector in general."
A recently published industry report on the tilapia sector in Sub-Saharan Africa expands on the fund’s vision for tilapia's potential to scale and meet Africa's growing need for healthy, sustainable protein, they said.
Launched in 2014, Aqua-Spark is an investment fund “with a mission to transform the global aquaculture industry into one that is healthier, more sustainable, and more accessible.” It has EUR 275 million (USD 313.9 million) in assets under management and has invested in 24 small- and medium-sized aquaculture and aquaculture-related enterprises since 2015.
“These companies are solving some of the industry’s big challenges while bringing returns that are comparable to today’s traditional industry. The portfolio works as an ecosystem, with the companies agreeing to collaborate on optimal solutions, and working together toward this shared vision of a more efficient global aquaculture industry,” Aqua-Spark said. “The goal of the fund is to ultimately make sustainability widespread and profitable enough that it becomes the only way to farm fish.”
Photo courtesy of eFishery