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The feasibility of Picture-Based insurance (PBI): Smartphone pictures for affordable crop insurance


  • Ceballos, Francisco
  • Kramer, Berber
  • Robles, Miguel


Smallholder farmers are increasingly exposed to weather extremes but lack access to affordable insurance products to protect their livelihoods from catastrophic crop damage. This paper analyzes the feasibility of Picture-Based Insurance (PBI) as a tool to improve the quality and affordability of crop insurance. Under PBI, insurance claims are verified using a time-lapse of pictures from insured plots, both pre- and post-damage, taken by farmers themselves using regular smartphone cameras. PBI aims at minimizing asymmetric information and costs of claims verification compared to indemnity insurance, while reducing basis risk and improving trust, tangibility, and understanding compared to index-based insurance. A pilot implementation in the rice-wheat belt of India speaks to PBI being a feasible and valuable complement to existing insurance products. Damage is visible from smartphone pictures, farmers can take pictures of sufficient quality for loss assessment, and PBI helps reduce severe downside basis risk at minimal cost.

Suggested Citation

  • Ceballos, Francisco & Kramer, Berber & Robles, Miguel, 2018. "The feasibility of Picture-Based insurance (PBI): Smartphone pictures for affordable crop insurance," IFPRI discussion papers 1788, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:fpr:ifprid:1788

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    Cited by:

    1. Christopher Agyekumhene & Jasper R. de Vries & Annemarie van Paassen & Marc Schut & Phil MacNaghten, 2020. "Making Smallholder Value Chain Partnerships Inclusive: Exploring Digital Farm Monitoring through Farmer Friendly Smartphone Platforms," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(11), pages 1-1, June.

    More about this item


    INDIA; SOUTH ASIA; ASIA; risk; insurance; technology; finance; smallholders; information and communication technologies (icts); photography; mobile phone; G22 Insurance; Insurance Companies; Actuarial Studies; O13 Economic Development: Agriculture; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Other Primary Product; O16 Economic Development: Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance; Q14 Agricultural Finance;

    JEL classification:

    • G22 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Insurance; Insurance Companies; Actuarial Studies
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance
    • Q14 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Finance


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