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Jonathan Knutson, Forum Communications Co., Published December 04 2010

Ex-Google exec’s firm supplements crop insurance

One of the guys who brought the world Google now says he can help farmers better manage risk and protect profits.

WeatherBill’s new Total Weather Insurance uses technology to customize crop insurance protection for agricultural producers.

“We supplement and complement multi-peril insurance,” going “above and beyond the federal crop insurance program,” says David Friedberg, chief executive officer of San Francisco-based WeatherBill and previously one of the founding members of Google’s corporate development team.

After leaving Google, the widely used Internet search engine, Friedberg launched WeatherBill to make it easier for people in agriculture and other weather-sensitive industries to protect revenue and control costs.

Total Insurance Weather, offered by WeatherBill in partnership with ADM Crop Risk Services, offers protection against rain, drought, heat, cold and snow.

WeatherBill’s products are available nationwide for any crop at any stage of growth, the company says.

The company recommends pricing as early as possible, before weather forecasts have a higher impact on pricing.

Producers can go online to get an estimate of their “insurance gap,” or the difference between their expected revenue for a particular crop and the percentage of that revenue covered by their current insurance.

Assessments

Total Insurance Weather also provides a customized weather risk analysis for individual crops and counties, using information from U.S. Department of Agriculture crop production forecasts, Risk Management Agency loss data and historical weather data to determine weather risks for individual crops in individual counties.

Here’s an example of how it works:

North Dakota’s Cass County is the nation’s leading soybean producer. According to the WeatherBill website, 99 percent of soybean losses in Cass County are a result of weather. Breaking down the losses by specific risk:

Unlike traditional crop insurance, WeatherBill automatically sends payment when the weather conditions insured against occurred as measured by independent sources such as the U.S. Weather Service.

Hail damage would need to be observed physically by a WeatherBill representative, so hail protection isn’t offered, Friedberg says.

“Because so much of what we do is automated, our costs are low,” he says.

WeatherBill insurance products all carry an A.M. Best “A” or “excellent” rating, he says.

The A.M. Best Co. provides an independent opinion of the creditworthiness of insurers.


Jonathan Knutson is a reporter at Agweek in Grand Forks