Last month, PartnerRe, the large, global reinsurance firm, announced that it was signing a unique and innovative agreement with Farmers Edge, a company that offers fully integrated precision agriculture and data management solutions to farmers.
This exclusive, four-year agreement will bring together precision farming technology and agriculture insurance through the joint development of new agriculture insurance products aimed at addressing the specific needs and challenges of farmers. The resulting insurance products with integrated precision-farming capabilities will improve the efficiency and sustainability of a farmer’s operations, and enable them to obtain insurance customized to their individual needs.
To learn more about how these agricultural technologies can help farmers, why they’re an exciting proposition for agriculture insurers and why this agreement is beneficial to both companies, we sat down with Ron Osborne, chief strategy officer of Farmers Edge. Here is what they had to say:
Insurance Tech Insider (ITI): Farmers Edge says that it is “dedicated to helping farmers adopt agricultural practices that help growers boost crop production and improve sustainability.” How does the company accomplish this? What technologies does the company implement to help farmers farm better?
Osborne: At Farmers Edge, we’re dedicated to developing the best platforms for precision agriculture to ensure that growers and agriculture professionals are given the tools they need to sustainably guarantee productive farming. We provide precision digital solutions that include: Variable Rate Technology, soil sampling and analysis, on-farm weather stations, in-field telematics and data transfer devices, daily satellite imagery, rapid data processing, access to FarmCommand – an all-in-one farm management platform – and a network of highly experienced, trusted advisors.
ITI: How did the company get its start? Where did the concept come from?
Osborne: In 2005, Wade Barnes and Curtis Mackinnon founded Farmers Edge in Manitoba. Farmers Edge was the first company to bring Variable Rate Technology to farmers in Canada. For 8 years, Farmers Edge provided a tremendous precision ag service to farmers. Farmers Edge was the first in agriculture to understand what the power of field information could do and how that could create value for farmers.
In 2014, Farmers Edge launched our Smart Solutions portfolio powered by the largest proprietary field-centric data the agriculture world has ever known. It was the first and still the only fully integrated solution that included boots on the ground, software, hardware, field sensors, data science and agronomy. We didn’t just change Farmers Edge. We believe we set a path to change agriculture.
Now, Farmers Edge is introducing new digital agronomic tools to extract value from farm data. With continuous advances in rapid data processing, machine learning, data analytics and predictive modeling, we’re able to provide growers with timely information to support data-driven farm management decisions.
ITI: How have the company’s technologies and solutions been received by the agriculture community? What has adoption been like?
OSBORNE: We are now actively servicing over 20 million acres across the globe. As data floods farming operations on a daily basis, growers are beginning to realize they can benefit from it. Farmers Edge is successfully helping growers analyze their data to make decisions. That helps them operate more efficiently and profitably.
In 2014, this concept was new to most. Now, field-centric data collection, processing, predictive crop modeling, forecasting and machine learning give growers the insights they need to make the best possible decisions. Once growers truly understand the value of data, the jump on board. Overcoming any traditional practices is a challenge, digital disruption in agriculture is happening.
ITI: Do you have any metrics or data that illustrates the benefits of using these technologies in the field? How have they helped farmers? What impact have they had on their crops? Their land?
Osborne: With Variable Rate Technology, we’re increasing profits for growers by an average of $30-$45 per acre Using satellite imagery, crop health data and historical yield data, we develop Zone Maps to identify high performing and low performing areas of each field. We use these maps to generate prescriptions that optimize inputs across each zone. Our solutions and our approach to data management provides more than just improved profitability, we help growers operate more efficiently and productively by making more informed farm management decisions. For example, we’ve introduced variety and equipment benchmarking. This data gives growers unbiased insights on which seed/hybrid and equipment is performing best on their farm, and in their region. This information helps in crop planning, budgeting, and purchasing decisions. Integrating various sources of farm data into one platform makes data management easy and provides benefits beyond every day operations. It enables the analysis of historical data when making future field plans. It eases the provision of detailed field records for landlords, land owners, ag lenders and crop insurance providers. It eases the documenting and reporting of field activities for regulatory compliance and end use markets or processor traceability requirements. Finally, it enables the calculation of financial break-evens and the running of profit projections.
ITI: The company recently announced a partnership with PartnerRe. What are the terms of this partnership? How will this partnership benefit farmers?
Osborne: Farmers Edge has signed a four-year agreement with global reinsurance company PartnerRe to bring precision farming technology together with ag insurance. Under the agreement, the two companies plan to work together to develop new insurance products for the agricultural market.
While Canadian farmers have access to government-run, subsidized crop insurance programs, as well as some private sector insurance options, farmers in some parts of the world don’t have this luxury. There are different maturity levels of crop insurance in each country.
One reason ag insurance markets are thin in some countries is the lack of data. Historical crop yield data is important, but other data sets also play a part. Working with PartnerRe, Farmers Edge plans to export its data expertise around the world, bringing risk management in a way that they’ve never been able to have before. This will include places where there was so little data available, that companies didn’t feel comfortable writing a policy.
For example, one large-scale farm in Brazil had not been able to insure its production. Farmers Edge deployed our system and the farmers were almost immediately able to get insurance.
The first step Farmers Edge hopes to take is to enhance data transfer capabilities between farmers and existing insurers to make it easier for the farmer to do business. The second step is providing new types of coverage in all regions. Partnering with an insurance provider has surprised some in the industry, but this is a digital disruption, and we anticipate more companies to follow suit.
To learn more about the partnership between Farmers Edge and PartnerRe, click HERE.