Newsletter Issue #10 January 2022


Dear BEACON subscribers,

As we are writing our last chapter in the project’s lifetime, we cordially wish to thank each and every one of you for your support. Over the last three years, we have had a wonderful journey and it was great having you alongside.

In our final issue, the project coordinator Gregory Mygdakos is sharing BEACON achievements and aspirations.

We also present BEACON’s third business case in Greece conducted together with Karavias Underwriting Agency. Find out the outcomes of the project in the dedicated section The BEACON project results. Discover a selection of high-impact Upcoming events and the latest news on agri-insurance In case you missed out.

BEACON: Redefining Agricultural Insurance Tools

Gregory Mygdakos
Business Development Manager

Risk and uncertainty are inherent to agriculture with the most common sources of risk being weather, climate, diseases, natural disasters, market volatility and environmental shocks. To address those risks and provide a sense of security to the AgriFood sector, participating actors shall leverage on available coverage provided by the a) Finance and the b) Insurance sector; nevertheless for the majority of the AgriFood stakeholders access to both is limited or insufficient. Thus, new schemes of providing either finance or insurance are needed.

Unfavourable conditions and extreme weather phenomena undoubtedly, affect agricultural production and farmers (and their families) income. Efforts to improve farmers’ access to agricultural insurance products are more substantial now than ever. As a result, the number of premiums underwritten in agriculture is reaching record high levels; nevertheless, in countries where there is no generous government support, markets are growing very slowly with over 500 million Smallholder farmers around the world having limited opportunities to access insurance. On the other hand, for insurance companies/providers, under the traditional Insurance scheme, customer acquisition costs and claims processes are too expensive to serve farmers the protection they would need today.

BEACON aspires to fill this gap by providing the appropriate tools in the hands of insurance companies, enabling them to develop new multi-peril insurance products, that will satisfy the operational requirement of the Insurance and microinsurance organisations but at the same time will be affordable for the majority of farmers, especially smallholders.

In that frame BEACON developed, validated in the operational setting of 3 countries and delivered the BEACON toolbox; a suite of services that combine the use of remote sensing data, weather forecasting, and blockchain technology to provide a digital swiss-knife wherein crop insurance policies are plugged into smart contracts on a blockchain and indexed to local weather. During an extreme weather event, the policies are automatically triggered, which facilitates fair, transparent and timely pay-outs. At the same time BEACON toolbox, allows for timely early warning and pre-event organizational preparation, upscaled crop monitoring capabilities and on the fly damage assessment, meeting Insurance sector demand for actionable information, operational costs reduction, high effectiveness and higher customer satisfaction.

Therefore, the insurance industry has a golden opportunity to adopt BEACON toolbox, a turn-key solution that can empower their operations while allow them to play a critical role in building socio-economic resilience, adapting to climate change impacts and preserving economic development. While in parallel contributing significantly to building financial resilience to extreme events by providing risk information and innovative risk transfer products, the insurance industry can leverage on top of BEACON toolbox to develop more personalized services and to improve pay-out mechanisms towards fast and uncomplicated payments by digitizing important insurance processes.

3rd Business Case

KARAVIAS Underwriting Agency, Greece

In this issue we are presenting the 3rd and last BEACON Business Case that represents the Greek Case, conducted in partnership with KARAVIAS Underwriting Agency based in Athens, Greece. Karavias Underwriting Agency was founded in May 2014, as the continuation of Karavias & Associates who has been handling Binder Agreements since 1992 for a variety of risks. The Agency provides risk assessment, risk underwriting, policy issuance and claims management services.

This Business Case focused on flood insurance. The Greek Business Case has been implemented in order to approve crop damages caused by flood and validate the accuracy of the BEACON Damage Assessment Calculator component.

Karavias provided crop damages originated from Thessaly region. Thessaly is a lowland area located in Central Greece.  It is a closed geographic region with mountainous borders on three sides. Karditsa Basin in the west and Larisa Basin in the east cover most of Thessaly. Notably, it is estimated that almost 14.2% of the primary products of Greece are being produced on the Thessalian plain.

Karavia’s input included flood damages mostly related to winter cereals, as well as summer crops, such as cotton and maize. The damage severity caused by flood in the samples ranged between 40% and 100%. The provided parcel size area ranged between 0.1ha and 55ha, with an average area of 3ha.

These parcels were insured during the growing season of 2019-2020. The total number of provided damaged parcels from flood was 165. For flood damage assessment, BEACON employs optical and C-Band SAR satellite data for delineating and mapping a flooded area, for determining the beginning and the duration of the flood, as well as for the damage assessment.

Natural hazards included in this case were heavy rains, long periods of rain, and snowmelt flash-floods and floods that could be induced when river overflow their banks and water inundates the surrounding agricultural land. The actual flood mapping took place after this preliminary processing of SAR GRD images, with the use of Sigma VV timeseries.

In particular, the method was based on multi- temporal image series analysis and the computation of two indices: the Normalized Difference Flood Index (NDFI) for highlighting flooded areas, and the Normalized Difference Flood in Vegetated areas Index (NDFVI) for highlighting shallow water in short vegetation.

Initially a statistical analysis of SAR time-series was performed to better characterise the behaviour of each pixel in a specified area, and then normalized indices were calculated which help to effectively compress information on long time series. The calculated temporal statistics were used to compute the NDFI, which aimed at highlighting temporary open water bodies. NDFI easily allowed to categorize as “flooded” those areas solely temporarily covered by water with respect to permanent water bodies and non-water land cover classes. Normalizing the difference, NDFI assisted in defining a threshold for values between 0 and 1 to mask the inundated areas and calculate the flood extent.

On the other hand, NDFVI was computed to detect shallow water in short vegetation. NDFVI was used for detecting and delineating flood events in well-developed crops, which is particularly important in BEACON.

After the computation of the two indices, a suitable threshold value was applied to extract flooded areas. The maps obtained after the thresholding were then filtered to reduce three sources of errors. Firstly, to reduce the effect of speckle, the classified image was segmented and filtered using two morphological filters: 1. dilate filter which gradually enlarged the boundaries of regions of foreground pixels, and 2. closing filter which removed small holes while preserving boundaries. Both filters used a window of 3 by 3 pixels, which was identified as a suitable solution based on empirical analysis. Secondly, all clusters smaller than 10pixels were excluded to reduce spurious flooded areas. Thirdly, the pixels falling in a slope of>5o, where a flood would be unlikely, were excluded. The two morphological filters allowed the inclusion of flooded pixels that had slightly lower NDFI values but still with high probability to be part of the flood.

The BEACON toolbox

BEACON has released its farewell video, presenting its fully-featured
: A turn-key solution for Agricultural Insurance.

Credits to project partner INOSENSE for a comprehensive project recap...

BEACON’s last chapter

The BEACON project is coming to its end and after three years of implementation, we proudly present an account of our goals and results.

BEACON’s goals as visualized by the consortium were to enable the AgI sector to alleviate the effect of weather uncertainty when estimating the risk of AgI products, reduce the number of on-site visits for claim verification, reduce operational and administrative costs for monitoring of insured indexes and contract handling, as well as design more accurate and personalized contracts, by coupling Earth Observation technology with weather intelligence.

The BEACON Intelligence Engine was designed, developed, and validated to complement the information used by insurance companies in their products and comprises of seven services:

The engine provided the insurance companies with early warnings of imminent extreme weather events and diseases outbreaks, as well as visualized confirmation of a damage.

Over the co-creation process BEACON actively engaged 17 AgI actors, enabling the development of guidelines and requirements coming from the Agriculture Insurance sector at a global scale.

BEACON has additionally managed to successfully satisfy the requirements of the involved AgI sector parties that is to process and deliver the envisaged data products on a daily basis. The Climatology and weather intelligence module of BEACON toolbox has additionally, enabled the AgI actors in a significant increase in accuracy of risk assessment and substantial decrease in operational costs along the Agis chain (from underwiring to reimbursement).

BEACON followed throughout its implementation the principle of “creating with the users, for the users”. This principle allowed the capitalization of existing knowledge of the beneficiaries and the Lighthouse Customers (LHC) into the BEACON toolbox innovative solution.

Users’ active involvement resulted in an upscaled version of several functionalities and updates of the toolbox based on the feedback received. The final version was the integrated BEACON toolbox with the blockchain module, that was successfully tested and validated throughout the two years of the pilot implementation phases.

The BEACON toolbox platform development process had placed from starters the users in the center, so as to deliver a ready-to-market solution. Following two pilot iterations in Greece, Serbia and Spain- BEACON pilot partners’ evaluation of the BEACON toolbox experience presented the following highly encouraging results.

BEACON toolbox has been developed to fit into the regular workflow of agri-insurance companies and underwriting agencies, as well as to support reinsurance companies’ business, agri-insurance consultancy services providers and companies that are currently not offering agri-insurance products.

As such, it supports the 3 main insurance procedures
that form the toolbox Value Proposition:

Risk assessment


Damage Assessment


Contract Monitoring


BEACON’s final message to its target AgI customers
through a now validated and proved definite value proposition is...

BEACON toolbox couples leading Earth Observation technology with weather intelligence, and Blockchain technology to deliver cost-efficient and actionable insights for the agri-insurance industry, representing the end-to-end solution for AgI users.

Upcoming events

Earth Observation services in support of agriculture and Common Agricultural Policy

  February 9, 2022

This Clustering event aims to connect and explore future collaboration possibilities of European projects dealing with Earth Observation technologies for monitoring of farm management activities with regards to sustainability, in compliance with the CAP’s agri-environmental objectives, while further enhancing their visibility. It is co-organized by six projects ENVISION, Niva4cap, e-shape, EO-WIDGET, DIONE, and BEACON. The event will showcase a wide range of services and best practices delivered through several European projects.

2022 Extension Risk Management Education National Conference

  March 29-31 2022
  Omaha, Nebraska

This conference focuses on broadening risk management education programming for agricultural producers, encouraging new programming efforts, and strengthening existing programs. The 2022 Extension Risk Management Education National Conference will bring together public and private sector educators, crop insurance agents, lenders, and other agricultural professionals to share ongoing and emerging successful risk management education efforts that target agricultural producers. Conference participants will be presented with effective management methods for financial, production, marketing, legal and human risks associated with agribusinesses.

The 2022 Annual Meeting of the SCC-76 "Economics and Management of Risks
in Agriculture and Natural Resources"

  April 7-9, 2022
  Kansas City, Missouri

The objective of this Conference is to provide a forum to enable the exchange of applied approaches both empirical and theoretical, to risk analysis, economics, and policy and also to nurture the development and application of dynamic and original research efforts associated to agriculture and natural resources. Applied work in domains of government, industry, and academia will also be presented. SCC-76 annual conferences attract top agricultural economists in the areas of risk and environmental management, as well as administrators, private sector economists and researchers.

The 5th IEEE International conference on Blockchain (Blockchain 2022)

  August 22-25, 2022
  Espoo, Finland

The goal of IEEE Blockchain 2022 International Conference is to promote community-wide discussion that can identify advanced applications, technologies and theories for blockchain. Blockchain-2022 will provide a high-profile, leading-edge forum for researchers, engineers, and practitioners to present the latest developments and innovations in key theories, infrastructure, schemes, and significant applications for the blockchain, as well as to identify emerging research topics and define the future. A Special Session on Blockchain Network and Its Applications will be held in conjunction with Blockchain 2022.

Blockchain EXPO: Europe, Connecting the Blockchain Ecosystem

  September 20-21, 2022
  RAI Amsterdam & Virtual

The world leading Blockchain Expo series will bring together key industries from across the globe for two days of top-level content and discussion across 4 co-located events covering Blockchain, IoT, Cyber Security & Cloud, AI and Big data. The Blockchain conference agenda will present a series of expert keynotes, interactive panel discussions and solution-based case studies, all exploring the key industries that are set to be disrupted the most by this new technology, including the legal sector, retail, financial services, healthcare, insurance, energy, music, government, real estate and more.

The 5th IEEE International conference on Blockchain (Blockchain 2022) Future Blockchain Summit

  October 9-12, 2022
  Dubai World Trade Centre

The 5th Future Blockchain Summit, the MENA region’s first and largest Blockchain conference and exhibition, serves as a meeting point for the world’s most disruptive business technology trends. World-leading blockchain companies and influential minds will demonstrate the true and transformative power of Blockchain technology in different sectors. Over four days at the Future Blockchain Summit, industry experts will leverage countless networking opportunities, an expert conference programme and transformational workshops to explore distinct themes including amongst others Cloud Computing & IoT, AI, Data Science, Insurance and Agriculture

In case you missed

Ag Economy Barometer Rises 

In December the Ag Economy Barometer rose by 9 points. This increase marks the second positive move in overall sentiment since last May. This upward shift reflects producers’ improved perspective on their financial position, most likely because of overall positive harvest yields, commodity prices and amicable weather. Nonetheless, farmers are significantly concerned about 2022 and the many unknowns they expect to face. The most notable concerns lie in fertilizer availability and costs. Input costs are expected to rise by over 30% in 2022, building on the record prices established in 2021. More on the Barometer...

Odette damage to agriculture exceeds P11 billion

The latest data released by the Department of Agriculture (DA) of Philippines showed the damage and losses to the crop sector due to the Typhoon Odette’s in the Visayas and Mindanao in mid-December stood at P11.1 billion (~€200million). The calamity affected 389,316 farmers and fishers, with a volume of production loss at 252,956 metric tons and 420,465 hectares of agricultural areas. Agricultural commodities wiped out by the disaster include rice, corn, high value crops, coconut, sugarcane, livestock, and fisheries. The DA noted that agricultural infrastructures, machinery, and equipment have also been damaged. More on Odette’s impact...

Global warming caused NIS 300 million to Israeli’s Agriculture

According to a recent report by the Insurance Fund for Natural Risks in Agriculture, global warming caused some NIS 300 million ($96.5 million) of damages to Israeli agriculture last year. The hardest-hit sector was fruit, especially summer fruit which, deprived of a winter cold snap, failed to develop properly, causing widespread shortages in summer. The fund paid out five times the multi-year average in compensation to fruit farmers whose harvest was poor. More on the report...

Climate crisis cost India 5 million hectares of crop

In India, around 36 mha of agricultural area was affected due to hydro-meteorological calamities, including heavy rain and floods since 2016 – 6.65 mha in 2016, 5.08 mha in 2017, 1.70 mha in 2018, 11.42 mha in 2019, and 6.65 mha in 2020. Yet in 2021 5.04 mha of agricultural area were affected, making extreme weather events the new normal for Indian farmers. This has led to repeated losses for farmers, especially small and marginal ones who comprise over 85 per cent of the total number of farmers in the country. More on India’s climate crisis...

IBISA raises €1.5m seed round led by Insurtech Gateway

IBISA, a Luxembourg based startup, has raised €1.5m in seed round, led by Insurtech Gateway - specialist incubator and venture fund -, alongside other strategic co-investors such as Rockstart’s AgriFood fund. The funding will go towards IBISA’s new solution, built on blockchain and satellite data. IBISA’s new technology focuses on managing agricultural risk within a fully digitized platform including parametric insurance products, affordable premiums and rapid payouts. It will be used to fuel further expansion across the Philippines and India, alongside hiring and entering new markets. More on the fund...

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for your interest and engagement in the project.

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