The Indian private sector bank has partnered with several agri-fintech companies to build algorithms that can assess satellite images of land


ICICI Bank to assess credit worthiness of farmers using satellite data. (Credit: Pixabay/Free-Photos.)

Indian private bank ICICI Bank is planning to use satellite data such as imagery from Earth observation satellites to assess the creditworthiness of its customers belonging to the farm sector.   

The lender is considered to be the first bank in India and few globally to use satellite data to measure an array of parameters related to land, irrigation and crop patterns. It will use the data in combination with demographic and financial parameters to arrive at quick lending decisions.  

The use of the technology is expected to help farmers with existing credit to enhance their eligibility, while new-to-credit farmers can also get better access to credit from now on.   

As land verification is done in a contactless manner through satellite data, credit assessments can be carried out within a few days, compared to the industry practice of up to 15 days, stated the bank.   

ICICI Bank plans to roll out the service across the country shortly  

For the past few months, the bank has been using satellite data in more than 500 villages across the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. It now plans to scale up the initiative to over 63,000 villages across the country.   

According to the bank, the new plan is also significant in the present situation in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, where people are advised to stay indoors and avoid travel.   

Using satellite data, technical analysis of the land, crop and irrigation patterns can be completed from remote locations, without the need for the customer or bank official to visit the land.  

It can significantly reduce the hassles of travel, operational or the costs incurred in conducting such an analysis physically.   

Through the use of satellite data, the bank aims to collect and use the rainfall and temperature data of past years, the soil moisture levels in past years, availability of surface water.  

It also plans to collect trends in crop sowing including the crops, tentative sowing & harvesting weeks, crop health and yields, the agriculture land location details such as latitude, longitude and boundary of the land along with nearby locations of warehouses and markets.   

ICICI Bank executive director Anup Bagchi said: “We believe that usage of this technology will enhance accessibility to credit as new-to-credit farmers will have easy access to formal credit, as well as farmers with existing credit lines will be able to securely expand their eligibility. With encouraging response to our pilot project in over 500 villages, we will shortly cover over 63,000 villages in the country for lending with this technology.”  

To accomplish the task, ICICI Bank has partnered with agri–fintech companies that specialise in harnessing space technology and weather information for such usage.   

By working with them, it has taken over 40 parameters for a deep assessment of the land, irrigation and crop patterns and has built reports around them. The analysis is integrated using algorithms to analyse images.   

Furthermore, the bank has also worked on scoring models to create indices at the district level, village level and on individual pieces of land to provide an estimate of the past and future agricultural income, the timing of harvest, sources of income, offering key inputs to credit assessment.