This interview is part of our new AI in Agriculture series, where we interview the world's top thought leaders on the front lines of the intersections between AI and agriculture.
In this interview, we speak with Jehiel Oliver, CEO of Hello Tractor, to understand how his company is using AI to transform agriculture, and what the future of agriculture holds.
1. What’s the story behind Hello Tractor? Why and how did you begin?
JO: The idea of Hello Tractor came through initial exposure I got from working in global finance and agriculture. I was able to see firsthand the challenges that smallholder farmers face in accessing machinery to cultivate their land. 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. This was the rationale behind the establishment of Hello Tractor.
The idea was first shared at a seminar I hosted at IRRI (The International Rice Research Institute) in the Philippines. I then went on to nurture this vision alongside my co-founders, Lavandez Jones, Martha Haile, and a great team of dedicated professionals. It’s been five years since we launched and we’ve learned so much and achieved significant milestones over the course of our journey.
2. Please describe your use case and how Hello Tractor uses artificial intelligence:
JO: Hello Tractor is the first technology offering designed specifically for the compact tractor (sub- 100hp) segment, a market that is growing at close to two million new tractors a year. Most buyers of compact tractors purchase these machines as a business opportunity, earning income by providing tractor service for hire. Our fleet management solution uses IoT technology to connect tractor owners to smallholder farmers in need of tractor service, providing insights to de-risk and improve service delivery, ensuring tractor owner success while delivering market-led, sustainable impact to smallholder farmers.
We recently collaborated with IBM to pilot an advanced agricultural analytics and decision-making tool that cuts across the mechanization ecosystem, utilizing artificial intelligence to provide farmers on the Hello Tractor platform with timely and relevant information to increase their yields, provide tractor fleet owners with useful insights to save time and earn more, as well as empower banks with information for better underwriting and portfolio management
3. Could you share a specific customer/user that benefits from what you offer? What has Hello Tractor done for them?
JO: John Deere recently reached an agreement with the Nigerian government to deploy 10,000 tractors over a five-year period. Their goal is to implement a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) model that allows tractors to be leased to new owners over a defined period of time before being resold to them at a discount. The ability to monitor tractor assets and their usage (for security purposes and to predict future valuations) presented a significant challenge.
Hello Tractor was engaged as a critical implementation partner, providing key benefits to John Deere and the Nigerian government, including:
- Asset assurance: ability to continuously monitor tractors, usage, and status as well as the ability to track handover based on asset location.
- Asset maintenance: improved utilization rates, alerts on breakdown, and quick diagnosis of operational issues. Also the ability to track maintenance and organize warranty schedules and records.
- Usage monitoring: the ability to measure and bill for usage based on time or miles. Alerts to enforce compliance and safety limits, as well as the ability to remotely disable tractor.
- Value prediction: data collection that enables accurate valuation analysis.
These tractors coming into the country are estimated to 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.