Farmers Edge to use data to edge into insurance sector


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 announced this week, 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,” said Ron Osborne, Farmers Edge’s chief strategy officer.

One reason ag insurance markets are thin in some countries is the lack of data. Historic crop yield data is important, but other data sets also play a part.

In Canada, for example, “we’ve got rich data sets on soils, and soils maps,” said Osborne. “We’ve got a fairly dense network of weather stations.”

Working with PartnerRe, FarmersEdge 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, Osborne said, that companies “didn’t feel comfortable writing a policy.”

One large-scale farm in Brazil, he said, had not been able to insure its production. “We deployed our system and they were almost immediately able to get insurance.”

Here in Canada, Farmers Edge plans to use its extensive data platform to develop new products to help farmers work with insurance companies faster. “Imagine you had a hail event and you got paid the next day,” Osborne said.

The first step FarmersEdge hopes to take is to enhance data transfer capabilities between farmers and existing insurers. “What we’re working on is trying to make it easier for the farmers to do business.”

Farmers Edge has ambitious future plans in the North American market. “Step no. 2,” Osborne said, “is providing new types of coverage.”

Farmers Edge has grown from two Manitoba agronomists doing precision data work in 2005 to a company with 450 employees operating in five countries around the world.

In Western Canada, Farmers Edge offers precision farming solutions including variable-rate technology and satellite imagery.

PartnerRe, meanwhile, provides reinsurance to insurance companies in 150 countries, including specialty weather and credit protection services. The Bermuda-based company is publicly traded and has been in business since 1993.

— Leeann Minogue is the editor of Grainews at Griffin, Sask. Follow her at @GrainMuse on Twitter.

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