In a continent where the population is growing two times faster than the amount of food supply, food security is of utmost importance.
Food security is the availability of food and an individual’s adequate accessibility and affordability to it at all times. The Goal 2 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal is to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” An estimated 2.5 million Nigerian children under the age of five suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) every year – an extremely dangerous condition that makes children nine times more likely to die from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria.
In Nigeria alone, imported food items are higher than the current production of food. The demand of food is higher than the available supply of food, which puts Nigeria at a disadvantaged position in meeting the food needs of its citizens. Food security threatened by Nigeria’s growing population, the situation is the same across the African continent. 60% of crops planted in Africa are done manually, this is because majority of the farmers are into subsistence agriculture. Hence, only a meagre 20% of crops are cultivated through mechanised agricultural practices. Farmers across most of sub-Saharan Africa barely have access to capital to secure expensive farm machinery or equipment that is needed to expand food production, they also lack access to required information for distribution of their farm produce. The need to improve crop yield is of utmost importance, this is why Hello Tractor is looking to fill this gap.
Hello Tractor, founded by Jehiel Oliver, partnered with John Deere and IBM Research to create smart tractors that enable a mechanized system of farming, to increase food supply. Hello Tractor plans to revolutionise the agricultural sector and be known as the ‘Uber for farms’. An agricultural technology company founded in 2014, based in Nigeria, and expanding to emerging markets in Africa and Asia, is changing the way farmers plant crops. Hello Tractor allows farmers access tractor services through a mobile app on-demand. It aggregates tractor service requests and pairs farmer with the recommended tractor and operator. It then tracks and measures the number of tractors on the field and the area it serves.
“This allows farmers to plant 40 times faster. A typical farmer in Nigeria plants 40 days late.”
Hello Tractor has reached over 250,000 smallholder african farmers and plans to deploy 10,000 tractors over the next 5 years, thanks to the private-public partnership with John Deere and the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Hello Tractor is expanding their reach with IBM researchers in Kenya, by investing in several technologies; Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture, Blockchain Technology, the Internet of Things (IoT) and IBM Cloud. These new services will be tested in a pilot starting in 2019. Agriculture and technology work hand-in-hand for a seamless process. Hello tractor is making sure they make use of innovative technologies that will create a seamless process for smallholder farmers, by utilizing the blockchain and AI technology to provide an agriculture digital wallet, and a blockchain -enabled and AI-based decision support platform.
‘Through valued relationships with companies like John Deere, we have been very successful in increasing mechanization access in small holder communities. To reach the next level, we need to add additional services including predictive fleet utilization and maintenance,operator and tractor scoring, financing and the crop yield forecasting’.
– Jehiel Oliver
Hello Tractor is planning to utilize their data efficiently and securely. The blockchain technology will be used on the Hello Tractor platform, to determine the credit scoring for smallholder farmers in order to access loans to purchase tractors and machineries. This technology will also assist the financial institutions in viewing and tracking the utilization of tractors, in order to determine the number of loan farmers are entitled to, as well as using previous data to make a decision on the credit rating of a farmer.
The combination of these various technologies and the Hello Tractor application, will help farmers save money, save time spent farming and increase farmers produce. It would also help achieve transparency, allowing tractor owners, farmers, government and financial institutions have full visibility on operator performance, route travelled, tractor location, fuel consumption and maintenance of tractors.
However no business is without challenges when it comes to scaling. “Engaging smallholder farmers in a way that is cost effective. We’ve found this work to be quite the challenge.” -Jehiel Oliver. Hello Tractor plans to change the status quo of agriculture and increase the income of smallholder farmers.
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