Using technology to empower fishing communities in Indonesia

A new e-commerce platform is helping Indonesia's fishermen reap the benefits of the country's bountiful coastline. The platform - currently used by over 15,000 fishermen - is increasing the fishermen's incomes and improving efficiency and transparency in the fishing industry. 

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Indonesia is the largest archipelagic country in the world, with a coastline that stretches for more than 50km. The country’s top position in the global fish market offers the potential to deliver significant economic and social benefits. Despite this, Indonesia’s fishermen are poorly paid, earning less than $84 a month. These poor prospects are driving people away from the industry, and over the last 10 years the number of fishermen in Indonesia has rapidly declined.

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Utari Octavianty, an innovator and alumni of the Royal Academy of Engineering Leaders in Innovation Fellowship programme, grew up in a fishing community along the coast of Borneo, and recognised from an early age the many problems plaguing the industry. Not only were fishermen poorly paid, but the industry also suffered from inefficient supply chains, poor data, bad quality control and high price mark-ups. With these problems in mind, Utari co-founded an e-commerce start-up called ‘Aruna’. The aim being to counteract the problems inherent within the industry; using innovation and technology to better the lives of fishermen in Indonesia. 

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Initially set up as a Fisheries Data Platform, Aruna now exists as one of the leading integrated fisheries e-commerce platforms in Indonesia. Fishermen can sell their catch at a fair price using Aruna, which acts as a digital fish auction platform and marketplace for seafood products. The platform ensures that there is transparency throughout the entire trading process –fishermen can see the true value of their catch. As of today, over 15,000 fishermen have joined Aruna from over 15 locations across Indonesia and those who have joined have seen a 20% increase in their income; an impressive feat which Utari hopes will continue to go from strength to strength.

The materials given during our LIF in house training were exactly the kind of knowledge I needed for the challenges we were facing at Aruna. To this day I am still in contact with one of my LIF mentors, Kate Bidding, as her advice remains most valuable to me and our company.

Utari Octavianty

Ninety-five percent of Aruna’s business focuses on exporting fishing products to China, the United States of America, and surrounding Asian countries. However, with restrictions put on travel as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Utari decided to adapt Aruna’s business model and focus on the local market. The company collaborated with local grocery e-commerce platforms to add fish products to their catalogues. As a result, customers can now purchase products directly from Aruna fisherman on the ‘Seafood by Aruna’ online store through e-commerce apps such as Tokopedia, Bulakapak and Shopee.

Having recently won the Alipay-NUS Enterprise Social Innovation Challenge in April 2019, Aruna is continuing to attract global attention and recognition. Utari is keen to expand the Aruna’s services and improve Indonesian fishermen’s access to basic resources such as electricity, clean water, and the internet. In addition, Utari wants to use the Aruna platform as an opportunity for capacity buildingby offering training in sustainable fishing, fish processing, financial management, and a tutorial on how to use the app.

A new e-commerce platform to boost economic prosperity for Indonesia’s fisherman and improve transparency across the fishing industry

Project lead: Utari Octavianty

Delivery partners: Royal Academy of Engineering, UK and the Ministry of Research and Technology, Indonesia

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