With possibly thousands of acres to insure, it can be hard to accurately report everything. When damage gets involved and quotes need to change, that complicates matters. However, drone technology could be set to change all that. Patrick Brusnahan writes
Agricultural insurance is literally a huge business. In the US alone in 2017, there was 252.3 million acres of cropland. In addition, there were over two million farms.
Drone crop insurance
One firm trying to make agricultural and crop insurance easier is Skymatics. The Canada-based firm uses drone technology to take images of crops and then analyses them to help customers avoid heavy premiums.
Speaking to Verdict InsurTech, Skymatics CEO EJ Burrows explains how his company is unique in the market.
He says: “The difference with this company is that we wanted to focus on the industrial and commercial use of drones and to get more into data analytics. We have been offering data services since the end of 2016.
“We really saw a big gap in the market as we saw a lot of farmers were starting to use drones on their farm and they were desperately trying to use them to take pictures of their field. They were trying to use this to see where the damage was and prove it to adjusters.”
Ahead of the curve
This is an innovative offering, but surely it’s already in the market?
“I think we are well ahead of the curve,” Burrows explains. “People have been trying to use drones in this way for quite some time now. There are service providers and software out there that use data and metrics.
“However, they did it in an ad hoc way that didn’t provide you exactly with what you’re looking for. What we thought to do was provide a product that is tailored and suited exactly for the insurance process. It’s built specifically for this.”
Drones take images of the land or crops and it gets analysed by the Skymatics team. A report is created and passed not only to the policyholder but also the insurer. This combats the huge effort that is needed to adjust farms’ policies. Particularly when it comes to damage is this technology useful.
Skymatics works with both insurers and policyholders directly. The initial goal was to build the platform for insurers, but farmers were looking for something to add to the value chain.
Burrows adds: “On the policyholder side, it’s to give them a tool to provide more information and speed up the claims process.
“On the insurers’ side, we’re providing them with a portal where they can manage data from all their claims and pull in validation information. We’re seeing value and adoption on both ends.”
Over 500 different users are utilising Skymatics as of June 2018. They are from 40 different countries, as well as having on major insurer in Canada and two minor ones in the US. However, it hasn’t always been easy to get people on board.
“There was definitely some resistance in the early days,” explains Burrows. “A lot of that was ‘we’re in the business of insurance; we don’t want to buy a bunch of drones.’
“However, drones are getting cheaper. We’ve also provided a way so that the policyholder can collect of the information for you and send it to you. They’re getting all of this information at no cost to them directly from the farmer. That’s how we initially got past some of that early resistance. It’s a weird situation where policyholders are trying to give their insurers as much information as possible.”
With technology that costs nothing to the insurer in terms of hardware, is easy to use, and gives customers cheaper premiums, surely the sky is the limit? Burrows concludes: “Right now, we’re looking at the Canadian and US markets. However, we want a presence in all of the major regions.”