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Photo credit: DAS

Australian insurance giant IAG invests in CSIRO-backed ag and climate platform

May 28, 2020

Digital Agriculture Services (DAS) has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Firemark Ventures – the VC arm of Australian insurance giant IAG.

The strategic investment will see the Melbourne-based farm analytics startup partner with IAG to speed up the process of risk assessment for rural insurance customers, and enhance the ability to carry out such assessments remotely.

DAS and IAG – which claims to be Australia’s biggest agribusiness insurer – will provide all of the Lucky Country’s rural property owners with access to a free risk report on bushfire and climate risks.

The startup will also provide satellite-sourced data and location insights for customers of IAG’s rurally focused brands CGU, NRMA Insurance, and WFI Agri.

DAS provides a digital intelligence portal which farmers, growers, and other countryside stakeholders can use to access data analytics that can help them get the most out of their land.

Dubbed the Rural Intelligence Platform, the service was co-developed by DAS and the Commonwealth Science & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) – Australia’s national research agency, and DAS’s first investor.

It collates information on agriculture, climate, and the rural land market from numerous sources – including its own proprietary data and models – and houses it all under one roof for ease of use. This “puts science in the hands of decision-makers – including farmers, lenders, insurers, commodity traders, and rural suppliers,” the startup claims.

The data, and insights derived from it, are delivered via a software-as-a-service model, with several additional products built on top such as automated rural property valuation, crop identification, and soil mapping. Australian farmers get it all free of charge; paid-for products are available to agribusinesses, real estate agents, and other enterprise customers.

DAS draws on external data sources including Australian federal and state governments, the country’s Bureau of Meteorology, the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Research Economics and Science, Geoscience Australia, and geospatial location data provider PSMA. Historical land sales data is also incorporated from state Valuer-General offices.

CSIRO chips in with data and qualitative expertise on things like flooding and frost risk, and rainfall deficit. Last month, it granted DAS an exclusive global license to its Graincast crop forecasting tool, which will allow the startup to add it to its product lineup in Australia – and overseas, when the times comes to expand.

DAS was launched in 2017 by co-founders Anthony Willmott, Rob Mellor, and Jonathon Clark (now CEO, chief technology officer, and chief commercial officer, respectively.)

In a statement announcing the IAG deal, Willmot claimed that DAS’s technology “has advanced to the point where it’s now possible to say what the risk is for this particular rural property, farm, or portfolio, from anywhere in the world. That kind of property-level insight just wasn’t possible even a decade ago.”

Hinting at DAS’s overseas ambitions, he added that IAG will assist the startup with the development and rollout of a rural insurance hub on its platform, “which will be something that could benefit rural insurers and farmers across the world.”

Prior to IAG’s investment, DAS had secured at least AU$4.25 million ($2.82 million) in funding from CSIRO, Australian agribusiness Ruralco (which was acquired by Canadian counterpart Nutrien last year), and several other undisclosed backers.

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