Using satellite imagery, Internet to arrive at farm insurance solution

Coming to their aid: By reducing the risks associated with India’s weather-based farming, SatSure team says their solution should make it easier for farmers to earn more; and get agricultural credit and insurance and its settlement at the right time.  

Can a mix of satellite imagery, artificial intelligence, Internet of things, and big data analytics come down to earth in aid of the sons of soil? Can it help farmers to get bank loans, timely and correct insurance claims, may be even ensure a good MSP (minimum support price) for their crop?

A handful of space entrepreneurs, aged around 30 or less, worked on it and created a map-based digital framework or dashboard over the last 18 months to show that it can.

Abhishek Raju, SatSure Ltd.’s director–Asia, and Prateep Basu, chief operating officer, who founded the company, say that by marrying satellite imagery-based information with ground data, they hope to improve the livelihood of farmers without directly working with them.

By reducing the risks associated with India’s weather-based farming, their solution, they say, should make it easier for the farmer to earn more; and get agricultural credit and insurance and its settlement at the right time. In the bargain, the government spends less on insurance premium doles; and agriculture insurance companies make less payouts. And it can work as a scientific basis for fixing MSPs.

Collating data

Starting in early 2016, a bunch from SatSure worked their home Internet over six months to pull data from Indian and European satellites and old imageries from the U.S. Landsat. They keyed in latitudes and longitudes of little known places across the country to stack them up with local socio-economic data. To this they added ‘mandi’-level commodity prices down to a piece of land, potential prices, and historical rates.

SatSure, with its bases in London, Switzerland, and data centres in Dubai, now has a humungous 1.5 petabytes of data, says Mr. Basu. “We are easily the first in India to do satellite data integration on a Hadoop-based system and large area analytics.”

Last year, they began their pilot over a total of 250 hectares in Andhra Pradesh’s Srikakulam district. They randomly chose different crops grown on farmlands measuring 20 to 30 acres each. Different mixes of fertilizer and water were tried out. At the end of the 2016 seasons — the summer kharif and the winter rabi — they could predict crop yields that were 85 to 90% accurate. It is an ongoing work and this has been now fine-tuned to 95%. Conventional or manual estimates are said to be less than 80%, they say.

Forecasting crop yields

How does an accurate forecast of crop yields help the farmer or anyone else? Mr. Raju points out that not just the farmer but every stakeholder needs to know in advance the fate of the crop sown: the bank that lends him money for seeds and materials; the government that pays crop insurance premiums and announces MSPs; and the insurance agency that must pay the farmer if his crop fails.

In July, the Comptroller and Auditor General picked holes in the implementation of agricultural insurance scheme during 2011–16 and pointed out delays in settling 84.5 lakh claims amounting to ₹14,000 crore. It said farmers did not get the full benefit of the ₹36,000 crore-plus that the Union and State governments had given out towards crop insurance premium subsidies.

SatSure’s Google Earth-like navigable online dashboard will be customised and offered to users such as district collectors or deputy commissioners, decision makers, crop insurance companies, banks, and large single farmers.

The dashboard, they explain, becomes the decision maker’s tool for interpreting yields assessed a month ahead of harvest, crop health, acreage, and planning the commodity logistics. “Next, we will be working with insurance agencies on how many and where to do crop cutting experiments, how banks can use the data to give credit worthiness scores to farmers.”

Mr. Raju notes that the new Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana wants agencies to use technologies such as satellite remote sensing, ICT, and mobile phones to read risks and settle farmers’ claims quickly.

Today, the two say, next-gen children of farmers are aware, use smartphones and understand modern solutions to their problems.

Apart from its Andhra Pradesh activity and working with private farms in Kolar and Mandya in Karnataka, SatSure is partnering a crop insurance project in Gujarat and also in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra.

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 2:13:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/using-satellite-imagery-internet-to-arrive-at-farm-insurance-solution/article19568100.ece

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