Vietnam is vulnerable to climate shocks including typhoons, heavy rains, droughts and heat stress, all effects that spell financial disaster for the country’s millions of uninsured small farmers.
These farmers find it difficult to get insurance to protect their crops and livelihoods; many insurers are unwilling to provide farmers affordable insurance due to difficulties in assessing risks and climate impacts on smallholder farms. A lack of insurance then becomes a compounding problem – as uninsured farmers are less likely to qualify for business loans.
This is the problem that Australian agritech company Hillridge was created to address.
Hillridge helps farmers mitigate the financial impact of adverse weather events by leveraging blockchain backed smart contracts to immediately and automatically pay out insurance claims as soon as a weather event occurs within a certain distance from a farmer’s operations – no expensive assessments or time-consuming negotiations required.
The solution is based on live weather data feeds and powered by proprietary algorithms that calculate and quickly issue parametric microinsurance payouts to smallholder farmers, giving them quick payouts after weather events.
Founded in 2018, Hillridge has piloted two proofs of concept in Australia, resulting in commercial partnerships with Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, a Japanese insurer; Marsh, the world’s largest insurance broker; and Nutrien, which is Australia’s largest agriculture inputs and services provider.
Hillridge, which had been looking to expand internationally after its strong start at home, applied and was accepted to the final agritech scaleup cohort of this year’s GRAFT Challenge Vietnam 2021. The company now receives one-on-one strategic, advisory, and operational support from the GRAFT team and Vietnam agriculture industry insiders to lay the groundwork to scale into Vietnam.
“Vietnam is extremely advanced – most farmers have a smartphone. It’s a great example of emerging economies leapfrogging by employing technology,” says Hillridge CEO and Co-Founder Dale Schilling, explaining why his company was attracted to the Vietnam market. “We also recognize that insurance penetration rates in Vietnam are extremely low, and last year they were hit by some severe weather events, including five or six typhoons in a row. That’s exactly the sort of event we want to be providing cover for.”
The first steps Hillridge took in its partnership with GRAFT were to gain crucial inputs to clarify the company’s market entry strategy and fronting strategy in Vietnam. To this end, the GRAFT team has facilitated introductions with Vietnam agriculture industry insiders to familiarize the company with customer demands across sectors and regions in Vietnam. GRAFT has also connected Hillridge with local meteorology experts to obtain detailed meteorological metadata necessary to use the app in Vietnam, local venture capital investors and farming associations of prospective customers and end users of the product.
Hillridge had a breakthrough in October when it demonstrated its solution to the Vietnam National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Technology Applications in a meeting organized by GRAFT. The center’s acting director agreed to a partnership with Hillridge, which would give the company access to data from 1,000 weather stations in Vietnam.
The Hillridge team has attended a series of GRAFT “Bootcamps” to get in-depth briefings from Vietnam industry experts on topics like “The Startup Ecosystem in Vietnam” and “Agriculture Value Chain in Vietnam” that help new companies get the inside track to scale in the Vietnam market.
GRAFT is also helping Hillridge engage with mission-critical local partners such as local insurance underwriters and mobile money providers, who can facilitate micropayments in the Vietnam market.
After the GRAFT Challenge concludes, Hillridge has proposed to continue the partnership with the GRAFT team for further cooperation and consultation. Hillridge will partner with senior staff from the Mekong Business Innovation Challenges (who are part of the GRAFT team) to market its solutions to insurance providers in Vietnam. Meanwhile, GRAFT advisors who represent the Vietnam Digital Agriculture Association (VIDA) will focus on promoting Hillridge to agribusinesses and farmers in Vietnam.
“We would never have made the progress that we have without GRAFT,” said Schilling. “They have been so valuable in connecting us with people that have the right contacts, data, and market insights for us to enter the country in the right way.”
Within the next year, Hillridge hopes to acquire at least 20,000 end-users in Vietnam. And within three years, Hillridge wants to be the “go-to” microinsurance solution for Vietnam’s local farmers, bringing new security and stability to agricultural production in the country.
If you or any entities in your networks are interested in partnering with Hillridge on their journey to scale up in Vietnam, contact the GRAFT team at firstname.lastname@example.org.