May 27, 2020

Crop Insurance: Efficiency Of Satellite Monitoring

Crop Insurance Assisted By Satellite Monitoring

Satellite monitoring is an effective tool capable of observing the state of crops. It can be used by the agricultural insurance companies to a great advantage. Satellites are multitasking operating systems and, among other tasks, are capable of:

  • precise field area assessment
  • seedling presence detection
  • harvested soil identification (whether a field has been harvested or not)

all at the same time.

The key benefits for farm insurance here are

  • speed
  • precision
  • reduced cost

It is all possible thanks to remote sensing at which most modern satellites excel. We are not just talking about on-the-fly snapshots-taking here but going beyond the visible range, into the realm of the infrared. The world looks very differently seen in those wavelengths. Humans are only mildly sensitive to these rays, feeling them as heat waves but nothing more. Satellites, on the other hand, interpret them accurately and construct beautiful images that reveal the secrets of nature. The true state of crops is revealed with the help of the vegetation indices, especially the NDVI. Agricultural insurance could easily benefit from applying this technology to their needs, greatly reducing costs, saving precious time and resources. A recent study https://www.mdpi.com/2072-4292/6/11/10888/html has shown the real potential of using remote sensing in crop insurance.

Travelling around the Earth at orbital velocity, satellites can scan huge areas of land and sea in the matter of minutes. In fact, an orbit may last less than two hours, which means that the entire circumference of the Earth can be photographed within that time. You can visit NASA website https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/ for more information. Thanks to this incredibly far-reaching coverage of the satellite imagery data, crop insurance companies can accurately measure the field’s area within seconds. The data gets instantly integrated on the Crop Monitoring platform, so the users can see the exact contours of any field selected on an interactive map, on any screen.

Another benefit worth mentioning is the high resolution of satellite imagery, allowing for seedlings detection and harvest status identification, among other features. Combined with the remote sensing data, our platform provides the farm insurance companies with an ability to predict weather risks and assess natural and artificial damage to the soil and the crops. Soil moisture data helps to identify waterlogging, while the critical temperatures detection allows you to recognize natural destructive events such as cold stress.

However, arguably the most crucial feature that any crop insurance company is going to benefit from, is the accurate assessment of the field’s productivity, based on the historical and current data. Armed with this feature, insurers can also predict the future productivity of any given field. Now let’s examine each aspect close-up.

What Does Crop Monitoring Offer in Practice:

1. Farm Insurance Depends On Accurate Field Area Measurement

It is well-known that measuring a field by physically walking around its boundaries with a GPS-tracker is inconvenient, time-consuming, and lacks precision. In contrast, our software automatically calculates the actual area of a field in seconds. Accuracy of these measurements does not depend on the field’s size because Crop Monitoring uses satellite imagery to calculate area and perimeter of any field at a glance. As a result, crop insurance companies are able to work with real, accurate numbers, without ever setting a foot on the field.

In addition, Crop Monitoring can accurately outline the contours of a given field and showcase them conveniently on an interactive map. This happens instantly after the field has been selected, and the system automatically measures both the area and the perimeter in both hectares and acres. You can choose the units of measurement in the application settings. Users can also draw the contours manually and let the system do the calculations for them.

This is how it looks in Crop Monitoring:

outlining contours of a field on Crop Monitoring

A field is beautifully laid out on the map in full, its boundaries clearly visible as white contours. Their texture on the screen is in stark contrast with the natural color of the surrounding landscape. The area has already been calculated by the system and is displayed at the top right corner (in this case 40.4 ha). As to the color of the field itself, that is the remote sensing image based on the NDVI index. Green means dense vegetation which is a signature of a healthy crop.

2. How Crop Insurance Companies Can Assess And Predict Field Productivity With Crop Monitoring

Crop Monitoring offers its users several ways of assessing both current and potential productivity of any given field. Satellite imagery can help determine whether a field is harvested or not. The feature works to the farm insurance companies advantage, since it allows them to estimate the soil fertility.

Another way of collecting accurate data on the productivity of a field is to use the “zoning” feature. Satellite imagery not only provides the true natural color but also measures the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) in the near infrared. In other words, variations in the vegetation density get picked up by the remote sensors and are visualized on the screen in a slightly exaggerated contrast to each other. A field appears to be divided into a number of zones, based on the NDVI. Using this feature, any crop insurance company is able to not only determine the true state of the crops but also to calculate the total area of productive segments within a field.

In action, the zoning feature on Crop Monitoring looks like this:

zoning feature on Crop Monitoring

In addition, farmers can adjust the amount of fertilizer to be distributed according to the needs of every identified zone via this feature.

3. Assess Productivity Using Crop Rotation Historical Data Along With NDVI Historical Data

Crop rotation history is a convenient way for the farm insurance companies to get the data on the state of the soil. Along with historical weather and NDVI-based zoning, this feature enables a full-pledged analysis of the field’s productivity. There is a huge practical significance of the crop rotation historical data for the crop insurance companies. It helps everyone involved, farmers, traders, insurers, to make sure the crop type matches the soil. Why is it such an important concern? Selecting the wrong crop for a specific soil type may lead to soil infertility, erosion, and continuous invasion of pests in the future.

Crop insurance companies must be aware of the history of yields for the field before giving their consent to provide coverage. In some cases, fields require to be left fallow for a while after a certain crop hield. For example, there are low chances to get another yield some time after harvesting sunflowers. It is important that before farmers insurance is provided, the company figures out all these details. Historical data on crop rotation reveals the true state of a field with its current and past productivity rates, while also making it possible to predict the future yields.

Historical data on the NDVI (displayed on the chart as a green curve) is used to analyze the vegetation growth trends, whether the curve is stable or fluctuating. Crop insurance companies can use it to their advantage, verifying the information on the field productivity history provided by the client.

Next to the NDVI curve on the chart, other important historical weather data can be visualized:

  • minimum/maximum air temperatures;
  • precipitation rate;
  • cold/heat stress;

to name a few.

min and max air temperature on Crop Monitoring chart

Thanks to this data, farm insurance companies are able to

  • analyze the climate impact on the crops and on the field’s productivity,
  • anticipate weather risks and foresee yields.

Based on all this data gathered in one screen, crop insurance companies will be able to make more justified and speedy decisions as to providing the insurance coverage.

4. Keep And Share Your Records In One Application Via Scouting

This feature is designed to help farmers and crop insurance companies alike to narrow down field inspection exclusively to the problem areas. No more walking aimlessly across the fields in zig-zaggy patterns under a scorching sun! To achieve this, the Crop Monitoring platform integrates satellite imagery with the NDVI-based vegetation mapping. Scouting feature enables its users (farmers, traders, insurers) to create scouting tasks online in a matter of seconds.

The procedure is as follows:

  1. A user indicates GPS-coordinates simply by placing a point on an interactive map of the field.
  2. A name has to be given to the task.
  3. The user can add a description of the problem and save.
  4. The application instantly creates a new task, and, when you open it, shows the very point in the field, on the interactive map, placed there by the user.
  5. The scout then opens the task in the app, finds the point on the map, arrives at the site, documents the issue by taking pictures (digital sampling), and produces a report on the state of the crops right in the app.

creating scouting task on Crop Monitoring mobile version

To proceed with the task offline, the user does not have to wait for the Internet connection to be established, since the data is saved automatically and gets downloaded by default. The process is fast and super easy, making it highly advantageous for crop insurance companies. The task performance status can be monitored in the system and downloaded as an Excel spreadsheet. What makes Crop Monitoring so beneficial for the insurance companies, is the opportunity to store all the collected data in one place, and have it available at all times.

5. Monitor The Moisture Level With Soil Moisture Maps For Fair Decisions On Farmers Insurance

Soil Moisture Maps help farm insurance companies detect the areas that are vulnerable to risks of waterlogging, determine the sowing dates, forecast and monitor droughts, as well as assess the damage in case of incidents on the field. The crop insurance companies can also use these online maps to validate the ground data collected by experts.

Here is a real case of a field that had been waterlogged:

soil moisture maping with Crop Monitoring

Thanks to the satellite data integrated on the Crop Monitoring platform, crop insurance companies can make real assessments of damages. Every dark-red spot across the field, as seen on this interactive map, is a waterlogged area. At the same time, the weather data on the chart below display heavy amounts of precipitation prior to the waterlogging claim.

Furthermore, in order to fully confirm a farmer’s insurance claim, a separate historical weather data tab can be checked out by a Pro account user.

detecting abnormal precipitations with Crop Monitoring

The difference between the 5-year average precipitation rate for this particular field (in orange) and the amount of rainfall received in May (in blue) is unambiguously huge. The field was supposed to get 5 times as less precipitation than it actually did. Thus Crop Monitoring helps crop insurance companies confirm a legitimate force majeure event, ruling out any false claims, and providing services to those in a real need.

6. Identify Cold Stress To Confirm A Farm Insurance Claim

Crop Monitoring effectively integrates weather data on the platform to detect and predict crop damage resulting from cold stress. The system assigns a critical minimum temperature line specifically for every crop type. As soon as the minimum air temperature curve (seen in blue on the chart below the map) crosses that line, a cold stress event occurs. Crop insurance companies, as well as farmers and traders can track the minimum air temperature curve on a day-to-day basis.

cold stress detection with Crop Monitoring

Let’s compare these two images of the same field before and after the cold stress event. The exact moment of its occurrence is displayed on the chart as a vertical rectangular burgundy-red bar. Notice the green NDVI curve visibly dropping during and after cold stress. The blue minimum air temperature is seen to be crossing the critical dashed red line (4℃). All the data point to a natural disaster, confirming this particular farmers insurance claim.

The color of the field has changed dramatically after the cold stress event. The dense and the moderate vegetation, assigned the green and yellow colors respectively, have been replaced by the sparse oranges and critical reds. Damage due to cold stress has been detected by the satellite’s remote sensor.

detected cold stress damage on a field with Crop Monitoring

Farmers insurance claims due to cold stress can be confirmed via Crop Monitoring, thanks to an efficient weather data integration on the platform.

7. Crop Insurance Benefitting From The Notification System

A notification system in Crop Monitoring is designed to help farmers and insurers alike to stay aware of any abnormal changes in the state of the crops. Notifications are updated regularly, and they send out alerts as emails to the users. Crop insurance companies can greatly benefit from this system. It is possible to manually set the threshold value for the NDVI change, in order to filter out the false alarms. For example, knowing for certain that a 0-13.0% change is within the ordinary range, a user can customize the 13.0% value as a minimum. Everything above 13.0% will automatically become a notification alert, while all the values below the threshold will be treated as normal parameters.

using Crop Monitoring notification system

8. Crop Maps For The Crop Insurance Companies To Predict Yield

With the crop classification map, agriculture insurance companies can evaluate the crop development and check if the crops indicated by a farmer match the ones that appear in the satellite images. What is more, Crop Monitoring allows users to see the true state of the field’s vegetation according to the latest satellite image.

In the example below, a field appears mostly red on the map, which means its crops are in a poor state. A crop insurance company had to turn the field down, based on this data.

detected poor state of crop with Crop Monitoring

Thus, satellite monitoring guarantees transparency in the farmers insurance transactions, helping to build trust.

Satellite Monitoring is a highly practical tool that allows crop insurance companies to make reliable insurance-related decisions. Crop Monitoring is an online platform that provides the farm insurance companies with accurate and up-to-date data that is stored in the system and available both online and offline at any time. The Platform also offers a wide range of analytical features that are useful for insurers in getting the required information and/or validating it fast and easy. How do they mainly benefit from it? All the processes considerably save their time, resources, and money, in turn, increasing precision and accuracy.

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