Private sector lender ICICI Bank will use satellite data—imagery from Earth observation satellites—to assess credit worthiness of its customers belonging to the farm sector.

“This use of innovative technology helps farmers with existing credit to enhance their eligibility, while new-to-credit farmers can now get better access to credit,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.

Further, since the land verification is done in a contactless manner with the help of satellite data, credit assessments are being done within a few days as against the industry practice of up to 15 days, the lender said.

It has already conducted a pilot study using satellite data for the past few months in over 500 villages in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat and plans to scale up the initiative to over 63,000 villages across the country soon.

“This, combined with demographic and financial details, provides strong information on the land asset of the farmers. We believe that usage of this technology will enhance accessibility to credit as new-to-credit farmers will have easy access to formal credit, as well as farmers with existing credit lines will be able to securely expand their eligibility,” said Anup Bagchi, Executive Director, ICICI Bank.

The lender has partnered with agri–fintech companies specialising in harnessing space technology and weather information for commercial usage and has worked with them to build reports with over 40 parameters.

The bank uses satellite data to assess rainfall and temperature data of past years, soil moisture levels in past years, surface water availability, trends in crop sowing including crop name, tentative sowing and harvesting weeks, crop health and yields, agriculture land location details including latitude, longitude and boundary of the land as well as nearby locations of warehouses and mandis.