New tech insurance protects small farmers against climate risks.

April 17, 2024
1 min read



Article Summary

TLDR:

Startup Sprout, founded by Ashley King-Bischof, offers climate insurance for smallholder farmers using advanced technology to provide weather-related information. The firm has received a grant from USAID DIV and is piloting its insurance service with 1,000 farmers in Kenya to improve climate resilience and incomes.

Key Elements:

  • Ashley King-Bischof founded Sprout in 2021 to help smallholder coffee farmers build climate resilience.
  • The company offers climate insurance and digital products using advanced technology to provide weather-related information and advice.
  • King-Bischof’s passion for microfinance and technology led her to focus on supporting farmers in Kenya.
  • Sprout is working with NASA Harvest to create digital tools for farmers and has launched a weather index crop insurance program.
  • The ultimate goal is to engage more private-sector actors in the coffee industry to support smallholder farmers.

Ashley King-Bischof founded a company called Sprout in 2021 with a multifaceted approach to building climate resilience for smallholder coffee farmers. The firm offers seasonal climate insurance to farmers while using advanced technology to provide information and advice on weather-related issues so farmers can better mitigate climate risks independently. A 2023 USAID Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) grant recipient, Sprout is piloting its insurance service plus an array of digital products with 1,000 farmers in Kenya, with the goal of improving climate resilience and incomes. King-Bischof has been working at the intersection of microfinance and technology since 2008, focusing on the support of smallholder farmers. She spent seven months in Bamenda, Cameroon as a Kiva fellow in 2019, helping a microfinance institution manage loan repayments while integrating an online lending platform. It was in Cameroon that King-Bischof met Martha, a coffee farmer who made a lasting impression on her and continues to inspire her support of women in the agricultural sector.

“Martha was so badass,” King-Bischof told DCN. “She had her own business, and she was managing it. She was strong and fun to be around.” When she returned to San Francisco, King-Bischof spent three years working with Yelp, learning how to scale startup and web-based technology companies, yet her passion for microfinance kept calling. Said King-Bischof, “The whole time I was at Yelp, I was telling everyone, ‘Hey, there’s this thing called microfinance, and it’s really important.” It wasn’t long before King-Bischof returned to Africa, this time to Kenya where she worked with onion traders. After about two years, she switched her focus to the coffee sector, where the global nature of the agricultural product could allow a startup firm like hers to leverage more international interest.


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