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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.