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Space tech to help ICICI Bank assess agri loans

August 25, 2020 23:03 IST

The bank is using readily available satellite images from ISRO and NASA for the purpose, and plans to scale up to 63,000 villages in the next three months.

For the first time in domestic banking, ICICI Bank is deploying satellite data to power farm credit assessment, which it claims will reduce cost for both farmers as well as the lender.

The second-largest private sector lender on Tuesday said it has been piloting the project in a few select villages for the past two years and is extending the same to 500 villages in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat now.

 

The bank is using readily available satellite images from ISRO and NASA for the purpose, and plans to scale up to 63,000 villages in the next three months.

"We will cover 25,000 villages over the next one month and scale it up further to 63,000 villages over the next two month," ICICI Bank executive director Anup Bagchi said without offering any quantitative numbers on how it will reduce cost for the lender as well as the farmers.

Though he claimed their agri loan book has grown in the first quarter by 14.3 per cent to about Rs 58,000 crore, Bagchi refused to answer how much it has already lent under the new project and how much it plans to lend.

The bank's rural business did well even during the lockdowns and no major hiccups can be seen happening going forward, he added.

He said the bank is using almost 40 different set of images from earth observation satellites of ISRO and also of NASA to assess credit worthiness of farmers.

ICICI Bank is the first in the country and among a few globally to use satellite data to measure an array of parameters related to the land, irrigation and crop patterns and use it in combination with demographic and financial parameters to make expeditious lending decisions for farmers, he claimed.

The land verification is done in contactless with the help of satellite data, credit assessments are being done within a few days as against the industry practice of up to 15 days, he added.

Using satellite data provides quick and technically sound analysis of the land, crop and irrigation patterns from remote locations, without the need of the customer or a bank official having to visit the land, he said.

He also added that it offers farmers advantage of reliable data being provided to the bank without any hassles of travel, operational or logistical expenditure to them, thus reducing their cost.

The bank is partnering with agri-fintech companies specialising in harnessing space technology and weather information for commercial usage.

Some of the key satellite data being used by the bank are rainfall and temperature data of the past years, soil moisture levels in past years, surface water availability, and trends in crop sowing, among others.

Photograph: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters

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