Hello Tractor, the sharing economy of Sub-Saharan African agriculture

Hello Tractor is an ag-tech company founded in 2014 in Nigeria. Its goal is to connect tractor owners with small farmers from Sub-Saharan Africa. The way is doing so is through an agricultural equipment rental app. The Hello Tractor platform allows farmers to request the service of a specific tractor. In exchange, the owners can check the tractor use, through remote tracking and virtual monitoring.

by Luca Indemini (translation by Agnese Glauda)

Africa is the region of the world where agricultural productivity is largely stagnant. Although it employs 65% of the continent population. One of the main causes is the low level of mechanization. In fact, 90% of the land is farmed manually or with the support of animals. By doing so, farmers are often living in extreme poverty, even though, in the last decade, billions have been invested by development organisations.

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Across Sub-Saharan Africa, 220 million farmers live on less than two dollars a day. Many of them struggle to produce enough food to feed their families and sustain their livelihoods. Tractors and other farm equipment are expensive and financing is almost non-existent.

“However, I realized that if farmers are able to have access to tractors, that’s as good as owning one.” – stated Jehiel Oliver, Hello Tractor CEO, interviewed by Disruptor Daily. “This was the rationale behind the establishment of Hello Tractor”.

How does Hello Tractor work?

Hello Tractor uses an IoT (Internet of Things) solution to reduce risks and improve transparency in the tractor sector. To do so, it offers equal access to tractors to the smaller farmers.

The core of the project is a low-cost monitoring device that can be installed on any tractor. This tool is very resistant to continuous use and extreme weather conditions. In addition, the device is equipped with an international SIM card, which allows Hello Tractor to connect to the cloud and share relevant data. If there is no connection, it can store data locally. Thus, tractor owners can monitor their tractor position, activity and need of maintenance through the app Tractor Owner.

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Hello Tractor interface for Owner and Booking Agent

The app represents the link between tractor owners and farmers. It allows farmers to select the real-time most convenient tractors. Moreover, a Booking Agent App has been created in order to facilitate the connection between farmers and tractors owners. Booking Agents are important mediators. They know well the local community well and they can use their knowledge to educate farmers and make them more familiar with mechanization techniques. Moreover, when aggregating different community needs, they find out that a sufficiently large area of ​​land is involved, the agent sends the request to the nearby owners of tractors.

Artificial Intelligence and blockchain in agriculture

Since moving its first steps, Hello Tractor has been used for 75% of the commercial tractors exchange in Nigeria. Additionally, it expanded over the national markets of Kenya, Mozambique, Bangladesh and Pakistan. In the beginning of 2019, Hello Tractor established a new important partnership with IBM Research. Together they will develop advanced agricultural data analysis and decision tools, using Artificial Intelligence and blockchain. This service aims at supporting Hello Tractor activities by providing useful and timely information to help farmers improve their production. The platform uses a digital ledger and machine learning to capture, track and share data, useful for both farmers and tractor owners

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Machine learning will help predict crops results. These combined with the advanced analysis and blockchain, can be used to assign a credit score to loans. Meteorological data, provided by The Weather Company, satellite data and tractor IoT data will be incorporated into the app. This will help small farmers to make better decisions on when to plant, what to plant, which fertilizer to use.

Furthermore, machine learning and sensors will be of help for the tractors owners to manage their maintenance and future use, based on the historical and meteorological data, as well as remote sensing.

Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Mobile Health

Ever heard about the use of Artificial Intelligence in mobile health in developing countries?

Well, if that sounds new to you; don’t worry, you are not alone. Last June, the United Nations Agency ITU (International Telecommunication Union) held a conference called ‘AI for GOOD Global Summit’, the first one in its kind,  to start discussing the use of Artificial Intelligence applied to developing context and to support the SDGs.

by Paola Fava


I remember over 10 years ago, while studying engineering, AI and robotics were quite new and fascinating subjects, but it was still a niche sector.The idea behind that is to build machines capable of thinking like humans, recognize information, picking up data from different sources, use that data to feed algorithms that can learn and improve their tasks. It sounds sci-fi, doesn’t it?

Well, since then, the AI potentials have been widely explored and applied in many sectors. Most likely, we have heard that Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, neural networks stand at the ground of driverless cars, of very smart computers that can beat chess champions or other applications of AI which are enabled by sensors connected to smartphone SIM cards.

However there’s much more to it. And more potentials may be out there ready to be explored also for developing countries, where the widespread of mobile phones and AI can go hand in hand.  I am quoting here Joel Selanikio ( Magpi CEO), who wrote in one of his blog: “we are beginning to realize that all the benefits (of mobile phones to global health) up to now have only been prelude to something with even greater impact on international health: the rise of artificial intelligence, delivered to even the poorest people in the world via the mobile phone.


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Again, quoting Selanikio, ‘some examples of AI-mobile phone applied to health care  include:

  • ResApp Health, who have used AI to develop an application that listens to the sound of coughing and breathing and can accurately then diagnose pneumonia or asthma.
  • IBM’s Watson, which can diagnose cancer, and select appropriate treatment, more accurately than expert cancer specialists.
  • AiCure, a mobile app that uses AI to verify medication compliance (it can watch you ingest your meds) – and which could be used to scale directly-observed therapy (DOT) for TB (currently dependent on community-health workers) at low cost to all the places that current cannot afford it.
  • NIH facial image recognition algorithms that can diagnose genetic disease using a smartphone camera.’


Does that still sound sci-fi? Well, it’s real and it’s the future.

However, as there are always two sides to every story, the same applies to AI in healthcare.
Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, in her opening remarks at the Artificial intelligence for good global summit, invites researchers and stakeholders to be cautious as medical decisions are complex and depends on context and values.

Although machines can aid the work of doctors, organize, rationalize, and streamline the processes leading to a diagnosis or other medical decision, artificial intelligence cannot replace doctors and nurses in their interactions with patients.
… we must consider the context and what it means for the lives of people. What good does it do to get an early diagnosis of skin or breast cancer if a country offers no opportunity for treatment, has no specialists or specialized facilities and equipment, or if the price of medicines is unaffordable for both patients and the health system?
What happens if a diagnosis by smartphone app misses a symptom that signals a severe underlying disease? Can you sue a machine for medical malpractice? How do you regulate a machine programmed to think like a human?

All of these questions are very important and we should not underestimate them.


Photo credits: the next web