Case study

When It Rains, It Pours Money: How Hillridge is Disrupting Weather Insurance

April 28, 2023
| minute read
When It Rains, It Pours Money: How Hillridge is Disrupting Weather Insurance

Coming from a farming family, Dale Schilling saw first-hand how severe weather can have a devastating impact on farmers’ livelihoods. Today, as founder of Hillridge Technology, he’s arming the farming community with financial tools to better manage weather risks.

Droughts, floods, and everything in between

When bad weather strikes, farmers are often the hardest hit. That’s something Dale Schilling knows all too well having grown up on a farm in Mildura, Victoria.

“During school holiday visits to Dad’s farm, I often found him looking up at the sky hoping for the next rain. He’d pore over the farm’s accounts late at night, brow furrowed,” Dale recalls. 

Whether it’s scorching droughts or ravaging floods, the weather is an uncontrollable force that dictates the livelihoods of vulnerable farmers.

These challenges stuck with Dale even as he embarked on his own career which took him to Mitsui in Japan, one of the world’s largest corporate groups in the world, and later to the multinational consulting firm, The Boston Consulting Group.

But it was an unexpected business offer from a friend that led to Dale’s first encounter with the concept of blockchain. Although he declined the offer, the unfamiliar technology intrigued him enough to learn more. Coincidentally, he also stumbled across a case study about weather insurance at the same time. 

Then came the lightbulb moment.

Dale Schilling and DK Kim, co-founders of Hillridge Technology

Testing the weathers: from idea to reality

Hillridge Technology is a startup that provides insurance to farmers, aiming to mitigate the financial impact of poor weather on crops or livestock.

While traditional crop insurance does exist, it is practised in small pockets and not in a systematic way that is meaningful or valuable for most farmers.

Insurance payouts (if paid at all) mean undergoing a lengthy claims and damage assessment process, which usually covers rarer natural disasters, like bushfires and hail, as opposed to more pressing concerns like droughts, frost, heat stress, and rain just before harvest. 

Farmers would often wait upwards of months, pushed to financial extremes to keep businesses afloat.

Dale envisioned an organised and automatic blockchain-powered weather insurance, one that could offer instant payouts in the occurrence of a severe weather event, authenticated against data from the weather bureau.

Within 6 weeks of conception, Hillridge transformed from an idea into a fully fledged team of interns based in a startup hub, Haymarket HQ. 

Dale inspecting survey feedback from farmers at the Henty Machinery Field Days

From farming to funding

After conducting over two hundred interviews and surveys with farmers across Australia, it was clear the industry was ripe for innovation.

As a first time founder, the Haymarket HQ community proved to be an invaluable asset. By tapping into the networks of other members in the space, Dale soon found a group of like-minded tech founders and enthusiasts.

It was at the Sydney Blockchain Community's meetups, held regularly at HHQ, that Dale met his eventual co-founder and CTO, Dai Kyu Kim.

From there, the HHQ ecosystem provided support in various forms — from bouncing ideas, advising grant applications, polishing pitch decks, to seeking strategic advice from resident mentors. 

Dale was also able to make important connections with Study NSW, Investment NSW, and Austrade, further strengthening Hillridge's foundations.

“HHQ helped from the beginning, from Terry’s advice to help us successfully apply for the MVP Grant in 2019 through to applying for the GRAFT Vietnam 2021 Challenge, which put us on the path to launch into Vietnam.”

Since their launch in 2018, Hillridge has been on a meteoric rise, securing major partnerships with top players in the industry, including Crop Risk Underwriting, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance (MSI), and Victor Insurance Australia, a subsidiary of the world-renowned Marsh insurance brokerage and risk advisory firm.

Their achievements also led to their victory in the 2021 Extreme Tech Challenge, where they not only won the Fintech category, but were also crowned as global co-winners of the entire competition, beating 3700 entrants addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2021, Hillridge received a grant of US$200,000 from the NEAR Foundation to bring its technology to Vietnam to support farmers affected by tropical storms during typhoon season.

For a country like Vietnam, this marked a significant step forward in local agricultural practices that’s often mired in distrust. Now, local farmers can access valuable weather insurance on their phones at the press of a button.

Hillridge isn’t stopping there. Most recently, they raised a further AU$2.3 million extend its footprint in Australia and New Zealand and broaden its weather insurance platform across Southeast Asia

Slowly but surely, Hillridge is planting the seeds of change in the weather industry.

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