Today Winnipeg-based FMIS giant Farmers Edge announced a partnership around crop insurance with Zurich-based PartnerRE. Although a bit short on specifics at the moment, the PartnerRE-issued press release announcing the deal explains that “in this partnership, Farmers Edge and PartnerRe are working to build products and services that will protect and pay the farmer, better and faster than ever before.”
We briefly touched base with Farmers Edge Chief Strategy Office Ron Osborne last week to find out what the deal means for Farmers Edge customers in North America.
“I think really what this represents is a rock solid commitment by Farmers Edge to help the farmer on his fields and in his back office, and that’s really what our commitment is,” Osborne says during a phone interview late last week. “Every one of our customers, they can kind of rest peacefully knowing we’re bringing innovative technologies and relationships here to help them be more profitable. It’s something that we’re pretty excited about. We’re talking 20 million acres and on up, that’s just sort of the minimum. So it’s something that we’re excited to bring to these really progressive farmers all over the world.”
Osborne says that he looks at the relationship as allowing Farmers Edge and PartnerRE to take a leadership position globally in the crop insurance market, which according to Osborne varies greatly in terms of maturity from region to region around the globe. It is that inequity in which Farmers Edge saw an opportunity to leverage it’s position in the market to better serve its farmer-customers.
“You’ve got different areas of the world — like North America — where crop insurance is a stable institution, really,” he begins. “Its subsidized by the government and there’s a very mature regulatory framework in place, and farmers in large part protect themselves. And some of those farmers buy insurance that is government subsidized, and some of those same farmers buy private insurance as a supplement.
“Then, if you look at places like Eastern Europe or Brazil — now keep in mind Farmers Edge is a global company, we’ve got customers in place in every major ag market around the world — and so parts of let’s say Brazil, there is infrastructure in place for crop insurance and there is a regulatory framework, but penetration is miniscule into the farms. And it’s because insurance companies need information to be able to make underwriting decisions, and these farms down in Brazil, Latin America, Eastern Europe, they’re starving for insurance coverage, but they couldn’t get it. The insurance companies literally wouldn’t even give them insurance because they didn’t have data.”
Data collection and telematics is one area of precision farming where Farmers Edge has a bankable level of experience, having launched back in the dark days of the Early Aughts (2005) and now collecting data on millions of acres worldwide. Osborne says that in the more mature markets of North America the new partnership is largely around helping growers streamline the claim process and get paid for faster, while in less-developed markets its helping them collect the necessary data layers to even apply for coverage.
“In Latin American and Eastern Europe and some of these places where they can’t even get insurance its having Farmers Edge product on that farm — and we’ve already seen this this season, it’s not future it’s already here today — when we implement our technology on that farm it was the first time that that farm was ever even able to get insurance at all. It’s transformative, right? Global farming is the future of farming.”
In terms of data layers, the three that will be of most interest when filing an insurance claim include soil data, Farmers Edge own proprietary hyper-local weather data from its network of branded, on-farm weather stations, and then machine and telematics data from the Farmers Edge telematics device installed in each piece of machinery in a grower’s fleet. Those three data sets combined — plus the coming high-frequency, high resolution satellite imagery from Planet Labs that Farmers Edge maintains exclusive distribution rights on in many key agricultural regions worldwide — position Farmers Edge customers with a decent advantage when it comes to crop insurance dealings vs. the farmer that’s DIY’ing it.
“That’s satellite imagery that is high-resolution, global, every single day,” Osborne says in closing. “And in some cases its actually up to eight times per day, so there is no faster way to detect weather events, to detect pests, to detect disease, really anything that’s happening in those fields, in all of agriculture. In this first year we’re working towards a minimum of 20 million more acres (added to Farmers Edge global coverage as it stands today), and that’s really only the tip-of-the-iceberg as we feel this could lead to something more along the lines of 50-100 million additional acres.
“But let’s just focus first on the 20 million or so, and let’s nail it.”