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Loans with the help of satellite images. A start-up solution.

How does a corn farmer in East Africa prove his creditworthiness? A start-up has come up with a solution for connecting remote regions to the rest of the world. The only requirement? A mobile phone.

"Show me your credit rating and I'll tell you who you are," is the unwritten rule of the economic mainstream: If a global company, a small village shop, a home buyer or even an entire country wants to borrow money, they must first provide proof of their assets and income. But how can a farmer in rural Kenya provide reliable financial information when such information depends in large part on his harvest?

Apollo Agriculture, a start-up founded in Nairobi in 2016, wants to solve this problem with the help of remote sensing technology and data science. Apollo uses machine learning models to build credit profiles for their customers, using alternative data sources. This includes inferences from satellite imagery of customers' fields, as well as self-reported and behavioral data gathered during the customer enrollment process. Apollo then provides approved customers with a package of farm inputs, advice and insurance, on credit that is customized to the size of their farms. This means that farmers in the Kenyan city of Nakuru, for example, can access the quality seed and fertilizer they need to increase their yields, and are protected in case of drought.

Co-founder and CEO Eli Pollak has ambitious plans: "Our business is helping small-scale farmers make more money on their farms. We see fantastic opportunities to help farmers expand and achieve higher returns, including higher profitability crops, more crop diversification, irrigation and access to markets."