Leading global food and agribusiness bank Rabobank has rolled out technology that enables virtual rural property valuations from CSIRO-backed start-up Digital Agriculture Services (DAS) in Australia.

The Rural Valuations Hub, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) product is helping Rabobank deliver consistent, efficient and independent property appraisals.

It provides comprehensive information enabling the bank to undertake property appraisals on a virtual basis when required – both complementing physical inspections and assisting in circumstances where these are not possible.

Rabobank Australia Chief Operating Officer Andrew Vickers said while the solution was co-created over three years to meet a specific industry-wide need, its value as a platform for remote teams, individuals and broader agribusiness had been proven during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

“While Rabobank is very much a relationship bank focussed on personal contact with our clients, we are also committed to launching innovative solutions that benefit both our customers and internal teams,” Vickers said.

“We partnered with DAS to create and launch a rural valuations platform and solution that would improve property appraisals and workflows by taking advantage of advanced technological approaches to make more informed assessments.”

He said, “Part of the power of the solution is how it’s seen Rabobank support Australian agriculture as the essential business it is during COVID-19. We have been able to support the business continuity of an essential industry by using the Rural Valuations Hub to undertake rural property valuations when they weren’t able to be conducted in person because of the lockdown restrictions.”

The bank is seeing increased use of its digital services, including by its employees – with 90 per cent who were working from home during the COVID-19 lockdown.

DAS, established in 2017, is an Australian rural technology start-up. It caters to growing appetite for AI-powered rural, agri and climate risk intelligence that puts science in the hands of decision makers – including farmers, lenders, insurers, commodity traders and rural suppliers.

DAS and Rabobank first piloted the Rural Valuations Hub in 2019 before rolling it out in early 2020. The Australian-led and developed solution offers a digitised appraisal and valuation workflow, appraisal reports, comparative sales analysis, custom capabilities and science-supported, standardised insights and data.

It is also designed to scale globally, supporting farmers, clients and business continuity in weathering COVID-19 and other disruptions.

In the next phase of the partnership, Rabobank plans to implement the solution to additional markets outside of Australia, as well as explore how the technology can be applied to areas like climate risk and portfolio management.

DAS co-founder and CEO, Anthony Willmott said financial services that failed to invest in rapidly advancing technology, such as machine learning, would become uncompetitive in years to come.

“We have found that the best way to drive advantages faster is to complement what we’re doing with a co-design partnership. Rabobank is both a cornerstone customer and an innovation partner more broadly,” Willmott said.

“The work we’re doing on this strong performing digital platform provides efficient and compliant appraisals, but the real power is what the technology enables – including portfolio management and understanding the impact of climate change and extreme events.”

Willmott said that while the technology had been built with continuous input and feedback from Rabobank, the benefit was that it could be used by any financial or lending leader across Australia or globally, with DAS already seeing strong interest and uptake among its client base.

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