Using IoT technology to increase productivity and improve the livelihood of smallholder farming families and communities
Pitch us on your solution
Farmers across developing countries lack access to mechanization services that can spur productivity and increase crop yields. This means that they end up planting and harvesting late, while losing money. Most farmers can’t afford to own a tractor, but if they have access to tractors, that’s as good as owning one.
Hello Tractor uses its IoT technology to connect tractor owners and smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa through a farm equipment sharing application. This application provides equitable and timely access to tractor service to farmers, enabling them to earn more and grow more.
Hello Tractor-connected tractors have already serviced more than 250,000 farmers since the beginning of 2017. Since smallholders across African and Asian markets face similar challenges, our goal is to be able to expand into more countries to serve 10 million farmers by the end of 2023.
What is the problem you are solving?
As our global community approaches 9 billion citizens, more food will be needed to feed the population. While the African continent could feed the world, agricultural growth and development is constrained by the low productivity of smallholder farmers. Without sustainable solutions to increase farmers’ productivity, food insecurity will continue to endanger current and future generations globally.
African farmers are known to face some of the lowest rates of mechanization. It is estimated that Africa only has eight (8) tractors per 100km2 of arable land while the global average is 200. When tractors are not available, farmers cannot not fully cultivate their plots and end up losing crop yields even before they can be harvested. Unfortunately, the majority of farmers across sub-Saharan Africa are economically disadvantaged and as such, cannot afford to own a tractor.
Collaborative consumption is not a new phenomenon, but collaborative consumption utilizing mobile technology is creating catalytic impact to industries around the world. Applying this phenomenon is hereby vital to serving rural smallholder farmers across developing markets. Connecting fragmented farm plots to a sharing economy drives more equitable access to mechanization for farmers who otherwise have to rely on manual labor to get work done.
Who are you serving?
Hello Tractor supports smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa by connecting them to tractor owners through a farm equipment management and sharing application that seeks to sustainably support mechanization through the reduction of transaction costs between tractor owner and farmer.
In order for smallholders (who are generally not technology savvy) to benefit from our offering, we have engaged middle men known as booking agents to bridge the digital divide that they currently face. These booking agents are youth within rural communities who aggregate smallholder farmer demand for tractor services within their community. They measure the farmer’s farm land to ensure that he is only paying for his exact plot size, and send in his booking through our Booking App so he can be paired with a tractor that will service his land in a timely manner.
The Hello Tractor platform enables farmers to request affordable tractor services to plant 40 times faster and 2.5 times cheaper than conventional manual methods. The benefits of tractor services for farmers include: planting on time, 63% average savings and upwards of 3 times increase in yield.
What is your solution?
To improve smallholder farming, addressing challenges within the ecosystem is key. Hence, Hello Tractor has developed a fleet management technology solution for the compact tractor segment that enables the shared economy model for smallholder farmers while providing tractor owners with powerful insights to ensure that their tractors are both profitable and properly maintained.
Hello Tractor’s set of solutions includes the following tools and software:
Low-cost monitoring device & Tractor Owner app: This device can be fitted to any brand of tractor in the market to glean insights on tractor operation and maintenance. Hello Tractor worked closely with tractor owners to develop mobile and web apps that provide full reporting on tractor and operator activity, performance, and maintenance needs. By giving tractor owners access to these types of information, they are able to extend the lifespan of their assets while saving costs and making profits.
Scheduling app & Booking Agents: To ensure that smallholder farmers are receiving the much needed service, Hello Tractor’s platform also offers a scheduling software that allows smallholder farmers demand for tractor service through booking agents within their communities. These booking agents play a pivotal role in aggregating demand of farmers in close geographic proximity, so that service delivery can happen faster and at economies of scale for the tractor owner
Our platform creates transparency and efficiency in the circular economy market by connecting tractor owners to booking agents and farmers at each stage of the process. This makes service delivery more secure, efficient, and profitable for all stakeholders involved. As our customers have expressed, access to mechanization services increases yields, income, and improves overall livelihood. Our business leverages:
Best in class technology: We maintain a laser-focus on addressing the constraints facing tractor dealers, contractors, and tractor owners looking to serve smallholder farmers (i.e., managing costs and aggregating demand to grow revenue).
Market building for all stakeholders: In addition to organizing supply, we drive revenue opportunities by developing agent networks that engage with farmers, cooperatives and out grower schemes to build demand. We also work with downstream processors and buyers to create markets for additional yields cultivated as a result of mechanization.
Innovation in a local context: There is an increasing willingness across our customer base to explore new, innovative models to address mechanization challenges. We capitalize on this momentum by thinking outside the box and leveraging our technology to assist our customers and increase our impact.
Select only the most relevant.
Where is your solution team headquartered?Abuja, Nigeria
Our solution's stage of development:
Select one of the below:
New application of an existing technology
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Hello Tractor’s platform creates transparency and efficiency in the hired services market by connecting tractor owners to farmers at each stage of the process. This makes service delivery more secure, efficient, and profitable for all stakeholders involved. As our customers have expressed, access to mechanization services increases yields, income, and improves overall livelihood. To maintain our innovative edge, our business leverages:
Best in class technology: We maintain a laser-focus on addressing the constraints facing tractor dealers, contractors, and tractor owners looking to serve smallholder farmers (i.e., managing costs and aggregating demand to grow revenue). Like Salesforce, our technologies enhance existing businesses by providing insights and efficiencies needed for scalability.
Market building for all stakeholders: In addition to organizing supply, we drive revenue opportunities by developing agent networks that engage with farmers, cooperatives, and out grower schemes to build demand. We also work with downstream processors and buyers (i.e., food and beverage companies) to create markets for additional yields cultivated as a result of mechanization.
Innovation in a local context: There is an increasing willingness across our customer base to explore new, innovative models to address mechanization challenges. We capitalize on this momentum by thinking outside the box and leveraging our technology to assist our customers and increase our impact. These new models and partnerships have provided Hello Tractor with the on-the-ground experience needed to unlock the promise of mechanization in Nigeria and across the continent.
Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.
Hello Tractor has a bold vision for the future. Not only do we intend to create value for compact tractor owners, we aim to radically transform how the smallholder agricultural ecosystem interacts with and derives value from technology. We do this by turning tractors into “Smart Tractors”. Through our Internet of Things (IoT)-driven software, we connect tractors to the cloud to provide tractor owners with key insights to de-risk tractor ownership and increase operational efficiencies. This cutting-edge and effective technology has increased efficiency, cost-savings, and revenues for tractor owners. By utilizing digital technology, we reach:
Tractor Owners: Hello Tractor’s low-cost hardware-monitoring device can be installed on any tractor, where our customers view their tractor data on the Tractor Owner app allowing them to manage tractor fleets, review operator performance, monitor maintenance needs, and access incoming service requests from booking agents.
Booking Agents: Our Booking Agent app allows booking agents to organize and schedule services between tractor owners and smallholder farmers, as well as measure and input farm sizes and location and store farmer credentials. Once a booking agent submits a request, the platform routes it directly to an available tractor owner nearby with the applicable implement to service the job.
Farmers: Hello Tractor aggregates smallholder farmers’ requests for tractor service on behalf of tractor owners, while providing enhanced security through remote asset tracking and virtual monitoring. This allows tractor owners and manufacturers to expand their markets, reaching new customers who were previously inaccessible.
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
Our technology has made it possible for tractor owners to increase the size of their tractor fleet, resulting in more smallholder farmers across the country being served. Additionally, tractor owners allow their machines to roam the country in search of demand instead of keeping their tractor close to home base for fear of fraud and lack of trust with their operators. By providing products and services to support the supply and demand-side of the market, we are introducing efficiency into the mechanization ecosystem and reducing the cost of service delivery.
Insights from the Field: Independent Customer Survey Implemented by Lean Data:
Farmers value that Hello Tractor is easy to use, and that the quality of tilling work is high. Most customers rated quality of tilling work at Hello Tractor 5 / 5.
Nearly 95 % of customers said their quality of life has improved to some extent as a result of access to Hello Tractor tractor services, and cite productivity and income increases as the reasons behind their answer. Separately, 94% of customers report an increase in productivity, saying they experienced better harvests and the ability to plant on more land.
Only 13% of customers had prior access to tractors before working with Hello Tractor and that 95% of all farmers used Hello Tractor services to facilitate their top income source. This appears to indicate that there is a unique value-add of Hello Tractor to customers: they value mechanization services, but previously had low, or no, access to them.
Select the key characteristics of the population your solution serves.
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
Hello Tractor-connected tractors have serviced more than 250,000 farmers since the beginning of 2017. This technology has made it possible for tractor owners to increase the size of their tractor fleet, resulting in more smallholder farmers across the country instead of keeping their tractor close to home base for fear of fraud and lack of trust. By providing products and services to support the supply and demand-side of the market, we are introducing efficiency into the mechanization ecosystem.
Our immediate goal for the next year is to have provided services to 947,000 farmers through the anticipated 6,000 tractors we would have on-boarded on our platform.
Due to our success in supporting the tractor contractor ecosystem, Hello Tractor has been able to form a strategic partnership with John Deere, after an extensive due diligence process. After their deep review of Hello Tractor and the success generated by tractor owners across our platform, John Deere’s executive team made the decision to utilize Hello Tractor’s technology to increase the number of tractors in Nigeria by committing over $200M dollars of investment capital, through John Deere Financial, to support commercial tractor service providers using Hello Tractor’s technology. This partnership will result in 10,000 new tractors in the market over the next five years, which John Deere estimates will bring 9 million hectares of land into production, creating 37 million metric tons of additional food and adding over 2 million direct and indirect jobs.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Over the next five years, we intend to position ourselves as the leading telematics solution provider for sub-100HP tractors globally. To do this, we have set the following business and impact goals:
- Build Market Leading Technologies and Products: We started off by launching the first version of our technology (Hello Tractor Version 1.0) which was a big learning opportunity for us and provided a clear picture of what fixes were needed to address customer needs. We recently launched Hello Tractor Version 3.0 which not only addresses the majority of our customers’ core needs but also addresses larger market concerns which has helped increase our relevance and value among stakeholders in the value chain.
- Expand to 15+ New Markets: We have been quite successful in our operations within Nigeria and are excited to take our solution across to other sub-Saharan Africa and Asian markets. We intend to penetrate into, and properly establish ourselves within the following other markets over the next 5 years: Bangladesh, Tanzania, Nepal, India, China, and Indonesia.
- Achieve impact target of 10 million farmers reached:
We expect that by the end of 2019, we will have achieved more than 6,000 tractors on our platform across our three core markets and the select expansionary markets that we are targeting. By the end of 2024, we expect to fully have more than 100,000 active tractors on the platform with more than 10 million farmers served.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
For the next year, we have identified the following as potential barriers that we may face even as we continue to scale up:
- Operating: Operating costs could exceed budgeted allocations; Leadership team may not be equipped to deliver success
- Technology: Competing product development on time and within budget is key to our credibility; Less than optimal technology may be developed; competitors could leapfrog us in key market; mobile carriers could pull out of key markets
- Capability: Scaling capabilities quickly are key to growth and we may be slow
Over the next 5 years, barriers we are likely to encounter include:
- Economic: External economic forces drive private and public sector agricultural investment and financial firm participation
- Legislative and Policy: Regulations could change and pose a negative impact to our current and future operations
- Funding: We need funding to be available at a level and timing required for success
- Supply side: Actual market demand for our product may not yield projected sales volumes
- Reputational: Highly visible potential missteps could negatively impact our ability to grow
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
For the next one year,
- Operating: Enhancing internal controls, developing active forecasts for monthly and quarterly key investment needs, and hiring a financial/accounting staff are key levers to better understand our OPEX and cost realities.
- Technology: We are using software project management tools like Trello to ensure we deliver superior training to internal staff and generate the feedback needed to turn field insights into technology development quickly.
- Capability: We are filling out our team increasingly with personnel with analogous experience. Receiving funding is key to being able to attract the type of talent that can enhance our internal practices and prepare us for future growth
For the next five years,
- Economic: Hello Tractor targets customers and partners with firm, organized, and professional management teams. We look to spend a considerable amount of our resources working with relatively established, stable organizations like Deere (OEM), TATA (dealer), and the World Bank (financing). By being smart about the relationships we have in place and working with some of the more capitalized players in the industry, we minimize risk.
- Funding: Hello Tractor anticipates building a growth model that can attract venture capital to the company. Over the next 5 years, we will go to the markets at least twice, seeking to raise $12 million in funding.
- Supply side: Africa is a growth market and we are committed to its development. But we would also be making strategic bets to sell solutions in large volume markets like those in South Asia.
Select an option below:
How many people work on your solution team?
Hello Tractor currently employs 18 individuals with technical expertise across agriculture, hardware engineering and telemetry, software engineering, data science, sales, and customer relationship management. We also have three advisory board members - Abe Hughes (General Manager, Agriculture Division, Trimble), Harry Plant (VP Social Impact, Aeris) & Victoria Bastide (CTO LifeSum) - all seasoned professionals who provide advice to our management team.
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
The Hello Tractor team is spread across the United States, Nigeria and Kenya. Our founder, Jehiel Oliver, was an advisor to two sitting U.S. presidents on business in Africa and has worked in global finance and agriculture for over a decade. His co-founder, Martha Haile, brings deep experience in global development and management consulting (NDI and Booze Allen).
Hello Tractor prioritizes talent of the highest caliber from the markets served. Our team believes in our mission and strives to empower communities to create shared benefits and transform the agricultural ecosystem, creating efficiencies that generate inclusive growth, reduce poverty, and help build stronger, more stable economies. Building a strong, dedicated ground team has allowed us to better understand the local market, optimize our technology and maintain our competitive advantage.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
Hello Tractor has cultivated strategic, cross-sector partnerships that aid our ability to scale. Hello Tractor is already partnered with Aeris, the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, CalAmp, John Deere and IBM.
Development Finance Institutions - We’ve seen firsthand that bilateral and multilateral engagement provides critical funding and serves as an important screening function for government related projects. Over the past two years, Hello Tractor has been in discussion with the World Bank regarding its FADAMA project and was just recently brought onboard as a partner.
Agriculture industry stakeholders - Input providers represent an attractive market opportunity for us to engage farmers, create new revenue opportunities, and bolster our agents’ product offerings. In turn, by our platform can provide these companies with critical data on input usage at the farmer level.
Foundations and NGOs - Hello Tractor has worked extensively with philanthropic partners to engage/train booking agents and to link our tractor owners to coordinated farmer groups/cooperatives. We have a number of NGO partners across each market that we are operating whom we would consider prospective partners.
What is your business model?
Hello Tractor seeks to create holistic solutions for the market and high-quality customer experiences, while differentiating on simplicity, design, and our focus on adaptability. Our solution cuts across the following customer segments:
Smallholder Farmers: The target smallholder farmer customers are farmers who, on average, have less than 5 hectares of farmland. These farmers plant late, under-cultivate their land, and lose out on much-needed income. While these farmers are unable to purchase their own tractor, they do have the means to pay for mechanization services. By accessing our services, they are able to plant 40x faster at 1/3rd the cost
Booking Agents: Our commission-based booking agents, primarily young people from rural farming communities, perform critical market-aggregation, ensuring idle tractors can connect to farmers desperately in need of service, all while earning a sustainable livelihood they otherwise may not be able to access. We target active, commission-based booking agents to be trained and closely supported by Hello Tractor under this program. As bookings are entered into the system, our technology aggregates them into groups profitable for tractor owners to service.
Mechanization Service Providers: Our service providers are contractors that purchase our IoT devices which are fitted to their tractors to enable them monitor their assets and receive smallholder farmer service requests. Hello Tractor targets contractors who have achieved scale or are building with scale in mind. While these contractors may differ in size, experience, geographic area of focus, brand affinity, and services offered, all are highly cost conscious
What is your path to financial sustainability?
Hello Tractor has emerged as a true agricultural mechanization platform. Our scaling partners include top companies such as John Deere, IBM, Calamp, and Aeris. For Africa, Deere has positioned Hello Tractor as their exclusive telematics partner. This means direct access to their dealer networks on the continent as well as strategic partnership opportunities on large projects like the 10,000 unit NAMEL deal in Nigeria and the 500 tractor a year deal in Ethiopia.
In addition to John Deere, Hello Tractor has launched partnerships with Aeris Communications and Calamp, both global leaders in connectivity and telematics. This opens up very exciting sales channels at the tractor dealer and existing tractor owner levels.
As we mature as a business, Hello Tractor will diversify its revenue sources beyond the monitoring device and software revenue to include the following:
Analytics: For customers with significant tractor holdings, Hello Tractor will provide a business analytics team to work alongside the customer's management team and provide solutions.
Transaction Fee: Our booking services provide real value for managing the interactions between the farmer and the tractor service provider. Hello Tractor takes a 2% fee for every tractor service managed on the platform.
Dealer Advertising: Dealers seek a closer connection to their customer base. Hello Tractor offers dealers an opportunity to provide a simple advertisement on it's platform
By the end of 2023, we anticipate generating more than $10 million USD from these new revenue sources which will account for just under 25% of our revenue
Why are you applying to Solve?
Solve can provide us with some capital needed to fund our activities to improve our operational capacity and systems to scale the business in new markets through our demand side and supply side engagement. Majorly, we are implementing a new digital transformation strategy to enable more cost-effective and reliable sales and after sales support mechanisms for our customers and increase our reach to scale. Hello Tractor will work with nine strategic areas to implement the strategy. For the demand-side we will work on: brand building, product development, distribution network and service excellency. On the supply side we will work on: sales excellency, product and service development and customer portal. We intend to use funds received to support our demand side strategy.
In addition, being able to leverage Solve’s community of circular economy experts and enthusiasts is key for us. Being able to learn more about the circular space and see ways we can improve on our model will help us do better even as we work to expand our footprint across continents and get tractors to smallholder farmers who cannot afford to own one.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
We have identified the following kind of organizations as critical to our growth and success as a company:
Development Finance Institutions
Agriculture Industry stakeholders
Food and Beverage Companies
Foundations and NGOs
We believe that using a collaborative approach, which takes into account the resources and expertise of established partners, will enable our company to grow efficiently and effectively, driving sustainable impact for all of our stakeholders
If you would like to apply for the AI Innovations Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution. If you are not already using AI in your solution, explain why it is necessary for your solution to be successful and how you plan to incorporate it.
Over the long term, we intend to develop a tool using artificial intelligence that aggregates service requests from farmers received through text message. In the near term, we should be able to provide service for farmers whose coordinates and details we already have, without the need for an agent intermediary. We hope to pilot a more advanced solution in 2020, as complementary technologies (e.g., prescriptive satellite integration and algorithms) are needed to make this possible in Nigeria.
In addition, we are currently piloting an advanced agricultural analytics and decision-making tool that cuts across the mechanization ecosystem. Utilizing artificial intelligence and the IBM blockchain, farmers on the Hello Tractor platform will gain access to timely and relevant information to increase their yields, tractor fleet owners receive insights to save time and earn more, and banks are empowered with information for better underwriting and portfolio management.
Funds received from this prize will go into implementing and improving these tool to further improve our services and engagement with smallholder farmers.
- Priscilla Asonibare Communications Lead, Hello Tractor