This SA startup is using satellites to insure your crops

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South African startup Mobbisurance is using data obtained from satellites to insure smallholder farmers against weather-related risks that cause crop failure.

Launched in 2014, Mobbisurance is focused on offering crop insurance and market access to smallholder farmers.

Farmers sign up through their mobile phone, with Mobbisurance then monitoring their crops and the weather using satellites owned by NASA and the European Space Agency, which the startup has access to via a partnership with the South African National Space Agency.

“When the satellite picks up that the crops are exhibiting signs of irreversible stress due to a weather-related event, like too little rainfall, an automatic payout is triggered,” chief executive officer (CEO) Kudzai Kutukwa told Disrupt Africa.

Kutukwa came up with the idea for Mobbisurance after his parents experienced a loss on their crops, but were not insured due to the lack of crop insurance products suited to smallholder farmers.

“We realised that there weren’t any crop insurance products aimed at smallholder farmers,” he said.

“In South Africa alone, there is an estimated 1.4 million emerging farmers and over 80 per cent of the food consumed in Africa is produced by these farmers. Globally, the number of smallholder farmers is estimated to be 500 million. The opportunity is huge both in Africa and beyond, as most of these farmers don’t have access to crop insurance.”

Given this gap, the self-funded Mobbisurance has swiftly built a database of over 1,000 farmers, and been selected as one of the 10 African companies that will compete in the SWIFT Innotribe Startup Challenge. It stands a chance of being one of the three companies picked to showcase their products in Canada and win US$10,000 in prize money.

The startup has a commission-based revenue model, but is at this stage is pre-revenue.

“There are two ways this can work. One way is that the farmers pay for it, or an organisation that they are affiliated to will pay for it on behalf of their farmers,” said Kutukwa, who added that Mobbisurance will begin charging by the end of the year.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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