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Technological Advances Are a Boon for Farmers, So Long As They Have The Right Insurance Partner

Innovative tools are helping farmers manage the unpredictability of both extreme and routine weather events.
By: | June 1, 2022

Farmers are up against tough challenges right now and many of the risks they face — from droughts or freezes to hailstorms — are unpredictable.

These losses can cause ripple effects in our economy. Crop losses can mean future food shortages, contributing to some of the supply chain issues and high food costs many are now experiencing.

Though these risks have long plagued farmers and insurance exists to address them, new technologies have the power to help better manage weather-related concerns. Tech tools like hail and freeze probability notifications that help farmers get ahead of events, can help increase crop yields and in some cases prevent insurance claims.

Unyielding climate change and more intense storms means food producers need to get these tools in play or face the consequences.

“​​If you aren’t investing in technology and staying ahead of the curve, you’re going to get left behind,” said Brock Maus, SVP – Information Technology, NAU Country, A QBE Insurance Company.

“​​We’re seeing a significantly faster pace of change, and there’s a wide range of solutions to help farmers keep up.”

Partnering with a strong crop insurance leader, like NAU Country, that has invested in tech tools is critical for farmers who are thinking about the future.

“If you look at the World Economic Forum studies, they say we are undergoing a fourth industrial revolution,” Maus said.

Maus states that NAU Country is well-positioned to be a relevant underwriter as that fourth wave unfolds.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on being a service leader, and technology is a big part of providing value to our agents and policyholders,” Maus said.

Tech Can Help Farmers Assess Weather Conditions

Brock Maus, SVP – Information Technology, NAU Country, A QBE Insurance Company

Managing weather events and gaining insights into the condition of their crops are important ways farmers are using technology to maximize yield and reduce unpredictability.

More specifically, technology can bring to bear historical and future weather data and monitor soil conditions to determine when spraying, irrigation and other important functions should take place.

“Technology and the amount of data available to the average person is rapidly changing across every sector. And agriculture is included,” Maus said.

“The information available — air temperatures, wind speed, water storage, soil composition, temperature and moisture — is staggering. It’s our job to help growers access planting conditions, look at historical weather patterns, identify precipitation accumulation and field accessibility to help inform mitigation efforts. Or you can look at growth charting — how many heat units your crops are getting by specific field to get a projected development stage of the planted crop based on the planting date and growing degree days.”

One way NAU Country is using technology to help farmers manage their crops is through its Field Insights® crop management tool. Field Insights allows farmers to assess what is happening with each of their crops by using current, future and historical weather data to drive decision making.

“Field Insights has a wide range of advanced technologies and tools,” Maus said. “We try to make things as efficient as possible.”

Within Field Insights, NAU Country offers spray and harvest advising, which can help farmers understand when the best times of year are to spray their crops and harvest them. Maus explained that with the spray advisor tool, farmers can indicate what day they plan to spray and the tool will let them know if wind conditions are optimal.

Another tool NAU Country offers is its EASYview Weather system. EASYview Weather allows farmers to determine if they have the probability of damage from hail storms, and they can do it from the comfort of their homes.

In what amounts to a parametric trigger, the tool sends users an email notification if hail larger than 0.5 inches is detected within one mile of each field protected by a farmer’s insurance policy. It also links to the policy, making it easy for farmers to initiate any claims for losses that may have occurred.

And NAU Country is constantly expanding its technological offerings based on feedback from insureds.

When citrus farmers came to the company asking if Field Insights could incorporate a frost alert system, NAU Country stepped up and got the job done. These notifications now allow citrus farmers to spray their crops before a frost, a process that can help preserve crops and reduce losses.

“In certain places where there’s citrus, you can actually spray your fruits ahead of the frost and it can help protect your fruits from damage,” Maus said.

“We started on the journey to creating frost alert notifications by saying let’s listen to this feedback. Now it’s something that’s been adopted more than just on the citrus side.”

Stay Abreast of Cyber Risk

While farmers are eager to invest in new technology tools, they come with a plethora of cyber risks — something that hasn’t been a focus for farmers in the past millennia.

Cyber-attacks have been top-of-mind for businesses in every sector and agriculture is no different. In April, the FBI issued a warning to farmers in order to inform them about the risks of ransomware attacks which could result in supply chain delays.

“At the front of everybody’s mind – in the current environment – is cybersecurity,” Maus said. “We strictly adhere to National Cybersecurity standards and partner with experts to help perform internal and external testing and regular security scanning on any software we develop.”

Cyber risk best practices remain the same for farmers as those in other industries. Multifactor authentication systems, phishing tests for workers and endpoint detection systems can all help farmers reduce cyber risk and respond in the event of an attack.

A Trusted Insurance Partner to Stand By Your Side

To remain on top of beneficial new technologies and cyber risks, many farmers are relying on their insurance partners to guide them.

NAU Country has long been a leader in the crop insurance space. In addition to the risk mitigation tools mentioned above, its Enhanced Coverage Option (ECO) offers protection to farmers in the event that their losses exceed traditional coverage. ECO provides area-based supplemental shallow-loss coverage for up to 95% of a loss.

Now, NAU Country is leading the way when it comes to quoting and processing technology use as well. Their EASYquote® and EASYmapping® systems allow farmers to get quick quotes for complex situations and develop digital views of their operations. Also, the company’s policy managing system EASYwriter Pro® works with the USDA’s Risk Management Agency to integrate its data, so that farmers can be confident they’re managing up-to-date policies.

The EASYwriter Pro® solution, Maus said, was especially helpful during the pandemic when farmers were turning to digital support for their insurance coverage needs.

“During the pandemic, f​​armers still needed to have their coverage needs met and we wanted to provide ways to do so as safely and as easily as possible for everyone,” Maus said. “We were able to take ECO, integrate a lot of the custom quoting aspects of it into our signature EASYquote application, which made it really easy for agents and farmers to look at different scenarios and what-ifs, and make it visual so that they can really see what they’re getting,” Maus said.

They say in-depth knowledge of a particular industry on the part of an underwriter is critical for risk management and risk-transfer success. NAU Country’s deep knowledge of the agricultural sector, combined with its savvy approach to technology, make it a stalwart risk management partner for the American farmer.

To learn more, visit: https://www.naucountry.com/farmers/farmer-tools/weather-metrics.

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with QBE North America. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.

QBE North America is a division of QBE Insurance Group Limited, one of the world's largest insurance and reinsurance companies. We offer the unique integration of financial strength, a broad product set and sophisticated capabilities to deliver value for our partners and policyholders.

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