When Aruna’s founders first met at university, they wanted to find a way to use their studies in information technology to help family members who were running small fisheries. Indonesia is one of the world’s largest fisheries producers, but the industry is very fragmented. This means fisheries, especially small ones, deal with fluctuations in demand and price instability. Aruna was created to bring them closer to customers like restaurants and exporters, the way farm-to-table startups are aggregating the agricultural supply chain.
Aruna announced today it has raised $35 million in Series A funding led by Prosus Ventures and East Ventures Growth Fund, with participation from SIG and returning investors including AC Ventures, MDI and Vertex Ventures. Aruna says this is the largest Series A investment to date in Indonesia’s agritech and maritime sector.
The company works primarily with small fisheries (or ones that have boats with about one to two metric tonnes of capacity) and focuses on sustainability, helping suppliers adhere to the United Nations Goal 14’s targets. These include preventing overfishing, protecting coastal ecosystems and giving small-scale fisheries access to more resources and markets.
Aruna was founded in 2016 by Farid Naufal Aslam, Indraka Fadhlillah and Utari Octavianty, who met while studying information technology administration and management at Telkom University. Fadhlillah and Octavianty came from families in the fishing industry, and the three wanted to create something that would solve some of the challenges they faced.
“This was the main idea, but the bigger thing we saw at the time was the advantage of Indonesia’s position as a large agricultural country with big potential in the seafood industry,” Aslam told TechCrunch.
According to the World Bank, Indonesia is the world’s second largest fisheries producer. The sector creates about $4.1 billion in annual export earnings and supports more than 7 million jobs.
But Aruna’s founding team saw two major problems while analyzing coastal communities. The first one was market access and getting fair prices for seafood. The second was access to working capital.
To solve the first issue, Aruna was built to shorten the supply chain, which Aslam said can have six or seven layers between fisheries and buyers like restaurants, markets or exporters.
Buyers make purchase orders through the platform, which are then distributed to fishery communities that Aruna organizes to focus on particular types of seafood. This helps them predict demand, guarantee return business and prevent overfishing.
Aruna also built a logistics network that includes more than 45 collection sites, or warehouses where seafood is delivered by fisheries for quality checks, processing and packaging. Aruna’s warehouses are a combination of facilities that it owns or runs with partners. Deliveries are performed by third-party logistics providers.
The platform currently has about 20 product categories and will use its funding to expand into more. Its commodities include high-value products like lobster, which are shipped by exporters to markets like Malaysia, Singapore, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Canada and the United States.
One of Aruna’s main requirements for fisheries on the platform is sticking to its sustainability process. According to the World Bank, one of the biggest issues facing Indonesia fisheries is overfishing, which hurts marine biodiversity. Aruna team members work with fisheries to standardize their equipment so they comply with government regulations and chose locations that are not overfished.
By focusing on a few types of seafood each, fisheries that work with Aruna are better able to ensure the quality and traceability of their products, and manage pricing fluctuations.
The second problem Aruna is working on is lack of access to working capital. To help fisheries get low interest, collateral-free loans for equipment and other things they need for their businesses, Aruna partners with financial institutions and fintech companies. When an Aruna fishery applies for a loan, the platform is able to provide transaction data collected on the platform for credit scoring.
The company also announced today that it has appointed Budiman Goh as its president, and Octavianty as its chief sustainability officer. Its funding will be used to expand to new areas in Indonesia, hiring data analytics and tech development, including IoT devices to help perform quality checks.
Aruna plans to focus on Indonesia for the near future because of the large number of fisheries in the country.
“Currently we have 21,000 fishermen on the platform, yet there are about 2.7 million fishermen in Indonesia, so there is a lot of room to grow,” Aslam said.
In a statement, Sachin Bhanot, Prosus Ventures’ head of Southeast Asia investment said, “Having built a robust supply chain and technology infrastructure steeped with deep industry knowledge and expertise, we believe Aruna is uniquely positioned to service the growing global demand for sustainable fishery product, while supporting the livelihood of local fishermen.”