According to IBM and the Food and Agricultural Organization, 80 percent of the crops in Sub-Saharan Africa are harvested without tractors or machinery, and 50 percent of the region’s farmers suffer annual post-harvest losses. TechCrunch reports that IBM Research and agtech startup Hello Tractor are looking to reverse this trend with and AI and blockchain-based platform that is to be piloted in 2019.
Hello Tractor is a connecting service founded in 2014 in Nigeria whose mission is to connect small-scale farmers to equipment and data analytics that help them run their farms more efficiently. They have since spread to Kenya, Mozambique, Senegal, Tanzania and Bangladesh, raising funding from private investors, DFI grants, and a seed round.
Hello Tractor teamed up with IBM Research at Startup Battlefield Africa in Lagos to demo the online platform Digital Wallet, which intends to close the gap between technology and farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa by “creating end-to-end trust and transparency across the agribusiness value chain” through use of a digital ledger and machine learning, according to IBM.
“Agriculture is a complex industry that can have so many different variables. We’re bringing a decision tool to the Hello Tractor ecosystem powered by AI and blockchain,” Hello Tractor CEO Jehiel Oliver told TechCrunch.
Drawing on remote and IoT-based weather-sensing technologies as well as AI, Digital Wallet will help farmers determine the best way to optimize and predict crop yields. It also utilizes a blockchain ledger.
“We’re an agricultural technology company. Our platform connects farmers who need tractor services to tractor owners who own these assets as a business. We create that marketplace to bring supply and demand together,” said Oliver.
Hello Tractor currently generates revenue by selling the tractor-monitoring devices and software subscriptions for its app, but this new partnership could steer them towards revenue opportunities in data analytics.
“At this phase we focus primarily on mechanization, but coupling the insights being generated through that device with the IBM platform solutions specifically for agriculture can extend the value we offer our customers and…be monetized,” said Oliver.