Rabobank launches world-first virtual rural property valuations

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AUSTRALIA’S leading agricultural lender Rabobank is fast tracking the adoption of PropTech during COVID-19, by rolling out world-first technology enabling virtual rural property valuations from CSIRO-backed start-up Digital Agriculture Services (DAS).

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.

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

Vickers said the Rural Valuations Hub, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) product – delivering rural intelligence at farm, regional and national scale – 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.

“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.

“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 added.

Established in 2017, DAS is an Australian rural technology start-up backed by the CSIRO. 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.

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

Vickers said 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,” he said. “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.”

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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