IBM, Hello Tractor pilot digital wallet via AI for agriculture

IBM Research scientists and start-up, Hello Tractor, are piloting an agriculture digital wallet, and decision-making tool for stakeholders in the agriculture value chain.

The tool, according to the partners, provides demand and supply visibility for farmers, tractor fleet providers, and banks to give farmers the equipment and technology they need to build a sustainable farm.

The technology, which was unveiled at TechCrunch Start-up Battlefield Africa, in Lagos, last December, is backed by such technologies as Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Blockchain.

To meet the increasing food demand, and reduce post-harvest losses, Hello Tractor said it launched a mobile platform to enable farmers to access tractor services on demand.

Hello Tractor uses a gig economy approach to provide tractors to farmers, who would normally not be able to afford them. The farmers sign up on the platform, and are matched with tractor fleet providers from whom they rent tractors for a fee. So far, Hello Tractor has 1,200 tractors on its platform, and has serviced about 250,000 farmers in the past year.

According to the firm, it uses a mobile app to aggregate tractor service requests (e.g., ploughing), and then pair them with recommended tractors and operators, while simultaneously tracking how many hours each piece of equipment is in the field and area serviced.

“Through valued relationships with companies like John Deere, we’ve been very successful in increasing mechanisation access in small holder communities.

“To reach the next level, we need to add additional services including predictive fleet utilisation and maintenance; operator and tractor scoring; financing and the crop yield forecasting,” the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Hello Tractor, Jehiel Oliver, said.

To achieve this, Hello Tractor turned to IBM’s research lab in Nairobi, Kenya.

Scientists at the lab are working with HelloTractor’s developers to apply several technologies, including the Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture, Blockchain, IoT, and cloud, to bring new services to the app for tractor owners and dealers, farmers and banks.

It said the new services would be tested in a pilot starting in the first half of this year.

Speaking at the event, the Vice President, Emerging Market Solutions and Director, IBM Research, Africa, Dr. Solomon Assefa, said the backbone of the agriculture digital wallet was a blockchain-enabled and AI-based decision support platform. This enabled capturing, tracking, and instant sharing of data, while creating end-to-end trust and transparency for all the parties involved across the agribusiness value chain.

Assefa said IBM would like to transform industries and impact lives across many industries in Africa. “Oftentimes, if you really want to address these challenges, you have to do a couple of things. One is to unleash some of the latest technologies so you can effectively solve those problems. The other is that you have to work with the local ecosystem and you have to have partnerships.

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