March 1, 2011

Weather Insurance Company Backed By Google

Total Weather Insurance, launched by WeatherBill in 2010 is a way for US farmers to protect themselves against being devastated by weather, which the US Department of Agriculture blamed for 90 percent of crop losses last year. Google Inc. announced on Monday it was one of its investors, AFP is reporting.

WeatherBill, founded by ex-Google employees David Friedberg and Siraj Khaliq, continuously aggregates weather data and runs large-scale weather simulations on its computers. It is an automated system which lets farmers or others customize insurance policies to the amount of rain or seasonal temperatures they need for fields to flourish.

Policies are paid out if the weather doesn't measure up to specified standards.

Total investment in the company is just shy of $60 million and some of taking part in the startup's second round of funding with Google Ventures included Khosla Ventures, First Round Capital, Index Ventures, and Allen & Company.

"WeatherBill is one of those rare companies that has the leadership and vision to apply new technology to an ancient and daunting problem -- weather's impact on agriculture. Now WeatherBill can help farmers globally deal with the increasingly extreme weather brought on by climate change," explains Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures in a statement on the Weatherbill website.

Bill Maris of Google Ventures said of WeatherBill, "This is going to have a real world impact on agriculture," he tells AFP. "Helping farmers protect their financial futures and protecting the global food supply is something we can all be excited with."

David Friedberg touted WeatherBill as the first company "to provide every farmer -- from the developing world to the technologically sophisticated -- with a simple and effective solution for removing weather-related risk."

A panel of climate change experts from the UN predict weather to become more extreme in the 21st century, affecting everything from food to water supplies, because of a build-up of heat-trapping gases from human use of fossil fuels.

In the United States, WeatherBill supplements subsidized insurance made available to farmers by the government and also sells vacation insurance that travelers can buy to hedge against foul weather spoiling trips.


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