Before founding Jakarta-based agritech startup Baku in 2019, Marvin Joseph Kolibonso was looking for ways to solve problems in Indonesia’s agricultural sector. He specifically wanted to improve supply chain infrastructure and improve farmers’ access to methods and tools that could make their operations more efficient.
Although the agricultural sector accounts for almost 15% of the country’s GDP and employs 30% of Indonesia’s workforce, smallholder farmers have long faced obstacles such as high supply chain fragmentation and exploitation by intermediary resellers.
In 2016, Kolibonso co-founded Sayurbox, an online marketplace where farmers can connect directly with consumers to sell their produce and yield. Kolibonso co-founders include serial entrepreneur Rama Notowidigdo; Amanda Cole, who ran a farm in West Java at the time; as well as industrial engineer and technology entrepreneur Metha Trisnawat.
But Kolibonso soon realized that there were more imminent stakes. Up to 30% of crop losses occur before harvest begins. This is due to a number of factors, such as weather conditions and shattering, a natural process of seed loss that can lead to significant crop yield losses, according to Kolibonso.
Kolibonso realized that these losses could be prevented with the help of sensors that track soil and climate conditions, as well as a mobile app that displays this information for farmers. With this idea in mind, he left Sayurbox in 2018 and launched his own agritech company, Baku, the following year.
Baku means “fundamental” in Bahasa Indonesia. The platform offers an app-based dashboard and IoT hardware for poultry farmers to track data and conditions of their farms in real time.
About 40% of Indonesian poultry production is carried out by small farmers who operate traditional open cooperatives, where climatic conditions are not optimal for raising chickens. Additionally, the heat levels in these coops can reduce productivity and lead to a high mortality rate, according to several reports.
Temperature control is essential in raising chickens. The ideal temperatures for hatchlings, chicks and adult chickens ready for slaughter vary. Raising chickens in the wrong temperature range, at the wrong stages of development, could impact quality and efficiency. “If the weather is too cold, the feed will be used to keep the broilers warm instead of growing them. This flow is then counted as a loss,” Kolibonso said.
This is where Baku’s hardware and applications can improve the process and generate higher yields. To start, a farmer provides information about the farm’s production cycles, including start dates, estimated length of production periods, and the type, population, and prices of day-old chicks that are in full growth.
Apart from this, farmers also need to specify production targets, their herd size, feed volume, water consumption rate, medications used, and herd mortality rate. Baku’s hardware system collects environmental data, such as temperature and humidity, in real time.
With the data collected, the app can generate a report for herders and track herd growth. Baku’s system will also send SMS alerts if it detects abnormalities in the cages.
The company monetizes its software service through a subscription plan that costs IDR 4,000 ($0.28) per day and charges IDR 800,000 ($55) per month for its IoT hardware. “Currently, we have to set up the equipment for the farmers. But our end goal is to deliver the hardware to the farmers, so they can install it themselves with the help of our instructions,” Kolibonso explained.
So far, more than 200 farmers have registered to use the service. After optimizing their poultry farming processes, they saw a 7-10% drop in feed usage, resulting in a reduction of 3 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions per day during the production cycle, according to data compiled by Baku.
But Indonesian farmers have been slow to adopt agritech services. This is mainly due to low awareness, low digital literacy and insufficient financial support, as formal financial institutions are reluctant to provide loans to smallholder farmers.
To raise awareness among farmers, Baku organizes awareness campaigns in villages to present its platform. “Farmers usually have a strong community within the village, so we need to show them how the product will work and let them try it for free. Once they understand the benefits, they will share them with their peers,” Kolibonso said.
Baku does not raise funds from external investors at the moment. Its R&D and construction are all covered by its existing revenue. “We [will continue to] focus on building solutions for poultry farmers as the demand in this field is increasing by more than 8% per year. Poultry remains the main source of protein for Indonesians. But the supply from poultry farmers still does not meet the demand,” he said.
Baku was among the finalists of the Alibaba Cloud x KrASIA Global Startup Accelerator Vietnam-Indonesia demo day held on February 10.