Guest blog from Maria Mateo Iborra, co-founder of IBISA
Using Technology to Make Insurance Fairer for Underserved Farmers
Here’s an obvious statement: we rely upon farmers to grow our food. Here’s a lesser-known statement: 70% of the global food supply is provided by smallholder farmers and the insurance industry is not set up to give them the support they need when they face climate shocks.
I created IBISA to facilitate a shift in the insurance industry. While a single supplier can’t hold the power to protect the food supply chain of the world. With the right technology, we can provide insurers, food and beverage corporations and even governments, with the insurance solutions they need to create solutions. Working together, we are powering an initiative to secure our current and future food supply.
Drought can bring a farmer down. One bad year is enough to destabilise a business. Two, three, or four bad years can be incredibly difficult to survive. I know this from experience. I come from a farming background, and although we were fortunate in having additional sources of revenue, we still felt the impact of drought and other extreme weather conditions. For the families around us who did solely rely on farming, the impact of weather events was enormous, made worse by the lack of suitable insurance.
I always struggled with why that should be. Why shouldn’t farmers be better supported? Farming is an integral part of both our societal and economic infrastructure. The impact that the war in Ukraine is having on food prices and food security seriously underscores the importance of global agriculture. And yet the support isn’t there.
98% of smallholder farmers do not have access to insurance.
Not because they choose not to. But because they are located in places with historically high costs of claims handling. And because there are no products available to suit their needs. And this is concerning because, between them, these 500 million smallholders produce 70% of the global food supply. Without them, we couldn’t survive.
With IBISA, I want to change the way the industry works.
Changing the status quo
The difficulty with the existing insurance framework for agriculture is that the cost of insuring smallholder farmers is just too high to be worth the small premiums they would pay. With IBISA, we sought to create technology that would help reduce costs for the active players in the insurance space. Finding a way to responsibly protect farmers in the event of extreme weather, by slashing distribution and operating costs, making it affordable to many groups in the value chain. And it’s no small challenge. But we’re already seeing results.
Now, we are creating a case for large corporations to lead on a wider initiative to protect the food supply chain. And IBISA has already secured its role within that movement.
The idea behind IBISA
As an engineer, working in the space and satellite communications industry since 2005, I’d long understood the potential that lay in the data being collected by satellites. It had so many possible applications. Including insurance.
If that data could be used as a basis for climate insurance, it held the potential to provide a solution for the agricultural sector. And that’s where IBISA has come from.
The aim for IBISA is to become the partner of choice for agriculture insurance and all industries impacted by climate.
So, we build, distribute, and operate climate insurance solutions for agriculture, using tech – including satellite technology – to ensure premiums are affordable, and that no one is ever left waiting for an overdue payment.
3 years on from inception, we are now working with insurers, mutuals, food companies, and financial institutions in India, the Philippines, Senegal, and Guatemala. Our innovative global climate platform is helping many businesses create bespoke, quick-to-market products to protect their supply chain. The European Space Agency supports our work. And we have investors in the AgTech, Tech, and Microfinance space.
The Gateway’s founder-friendly approach to funding helped us to navigate through something totally new to us. It felt like we’d found a real ally, thanks to the truly cooperative process, and the invaluable expertise provided by the Gateway team. Even through due diligence and legal we felt supported, rather than as if we were trying to be caught out. It was exactly what we needed to find our way through the insurance space and develop the product.
IBISA is now 3 years old. And we’ve found that the key to surviving the first few years as an insurtech startup is to surround yourself with the right people – advisors, co-founders, people who know and understand the things that you don’t. Not coming from an insurance background can actually be an advantage, bringing a fresh perspective not entrenched in the way the industry should be. But there’s a power to knowing what you don’t know.
So, never be afraid to ask for help.
Knowing when you need more advice, and acting on that knowledge has the potential to be your superpower. And Insurtech Gateway became one of our most valuable sources, allowing us to focus on developing the products we know the farming sector needs.
Insurtech won’t provide an answer to every farming problem. But it can, unequivocally, help to provide the comfort of a safety net when things go badly. Not just for individual farmers, but for a society reliant on the continuance of food production and supply.
If you consider climate risk as a threat to your business and value chain and want to expand into parametric climate insurance then get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss specific use cases.
A note from the Gateway:
Thank you so much for sharing your story Maria, we are proud to be supporting a venture with so much potential to make an impact at scale. At the Gateway we are always eager to meet founders from non-insurance backgrounds – like Maria. Experts from outside the industry look at old problems in a fresh light and have the skills to fundamentally change how we assess risk. If you are an outsider with a big idea or have already founded a pre-seed or seed insurtech, we have the experience and the tools to help you launch and scale faster. Check out our incubator and venture fund or get in touch.