As India becomes the latest country to go into lockdown, Indian tech startup Aquaconnect has launched a helpline for Indian shrimp farmers to assist them in navigating the supply, demand and logistics situation in the country.

"We saw that there are confusions among farmers around the recent lockdown announcement from the government due to the Covid-19 outbreak," said Co-founder and CEO Raj Somasundaram.

"As the summer culture is about to begin, farmers are worried about the transportation of important farm inputs such as seed and feed."

Using the platform established by the Hatch and Omnivore-funded entrepreneur last year, Aquaconnect will partner with veteran farmers, technicians and processors to gather intelligence on the ground and then share it with farmers in a range of Indian languages through the helpline.

With disruption in the usual supply chains and harvest season in some producing regions just beginning, the next step is to try and link farmers with processors and exporters who are still buying product, Somasundaram told worried producers on LinkedIn.

"In Andhra Pradesh, farmers are so worried," said Durai Murugan, owner of Sea Gem Aqua Farms. "Please list out exporters who are willing to buy material."

Farmers can phone the AquaConnect helpline on +91 72999 10993.

The Indian shrimp industry showed varying degrees of concern for market crashes when IntraFish spoke with producers and buyers earlier this month. For now, prices are relatively stable, but what even the short-term future holds is still up for debate.

With last year's injection of $1 million (€912,000) in seed funding from startup accelerators Ominvore and Hatch, tech startup Aquaconnect wants to transform the Indian shrimp sector by giving free on-the-spot access to production expertise as well as data collection and other planning tools that in other sectors of the international aquaculture industry are considered basic necessities of day-to-day business.

"The whole industry is not as efficient as it should be," Somasundaram told IntraFish at the end of last year. "Technology has not penetrated it the way it should have done."

The extreme fragmentation means far too much of the value of the 700,000 metric tons of shrimp exported by the country each year ends up in the hands of traders and processors, he said.

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