RURAL property valuations will be made easier and more accurate with the new Rural Valuations Hub on past, present and future information of farms.
While valuation software is a common tool for residential and commercial properties, rural property was yet to see such a service, due to the complexities with farms such as yield and water data, soil and land type.
The Rural Valuations Hub is a collaboration between Rabobank and CSIRO-backed start-up Digital Agriculture Services (DAS), which uses world-first technology to enable virtual rural property valuations.
It is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) product - delivering rural intelligence at farm, regional and national scale - and will help 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.
The platform provides growers with science-supported insights, analytics and information on which to base their decision.
It allows people to compare or benchmark any farm, look up rainfall over multiple years, gain greater accuracy of soil types, assess yield, productivity and carrying capacity and a soon-to-come feature will offer crop identification with paddock-level resolution.
Predictions will be more accurate on property value with automatic, evidence-based guidance and in the near future users will be able to predict forecasting and benchmarking for risk, productivity and sustainability, as well as income and expenditure by hectare and by farm.
All the data is derived from publicly available information and is composed into one location, meaning there are no privacy breaches and no personally identifiable information is listed.
DAS does not collect on-farm data, nor farmer data.
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," Mr 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.
"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."
Rabobank reported it has seen increased use of its digital services, including by its employees - with 90 per cent 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 artificial intelligence-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 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.
The platform also assists those wishing to purchase farmland, particularly those who may be restricted by their location and travel requirements, such as overseas investors.
The Rural Services Hub enables interested property buyers to gain a deep insight into the property prior to or even without an inspection, as well as a better understanding of off-market properties.
To assist in the valuation and selling/buying process, users can access responsive valuation reports, generate lead information for vendors and buyers and research comparable sales.
It also assists growers in proving that their farm is in drought stress and assess their bushfire risk or impact.
The platform is similar to Google Maps - next to every rural property one can see data about that property - for instance, how many tonnes of wheat per hectare the land is producing or how much wheat the land could grow.
There is even the potential for the virtual hub to appeal to other markets.
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 such as climate risk and portfolio management.
DAS co-founder and chief executive officer 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," Mr Willmott said.
"Rabobank is both a cornerstone customer and an innovation partner more broadly.
"It's said that Rabobank is the best bank for farmers - but its reputation as the best bank for start-ups also holds true.
"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."
Mr 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.