Hello Tractor, the so-called Uber for farmers, aims to provide many agricultural workers with access to previously unaffordable technology.
In many African countries, farming equipment remains prohibitively expensive, causing a lack of productivity – without machines, farms are roughly half as productive – and rapid urbanization leads to agricultural labor shortages. Hello Tractor, a mobile phone app through which farmers can hire mechanized farming equipment, is trying to change that.
"A typical farmer who receives tractor services through us plants 40 times faster than manual labor and at one-third of the cost," founder and CEO Jehiel Oliver told CGTN.
Clients below the poverty line
The app connects farmers with tractor owners. Hello Tractor agents assist with the bookings, while tractor owners need to buy the company's GPS device to attach to their tractors to track movements and accept requests, similar to how the ride-hailing app Uber works.
In an interview with How we made it in Africa, Oliver noted that most Hello Tractor clients "live at or below the poverty line," adding that they traditionally relied on manual labor to service their farms.
'More money come harvest time'
Kenyan farmer, Moses Momanyi, told CGTN: "The tractor innovation and technology is very cheap. It's also tiresome to do all this manually, like bush-clearing, and a tractor makes the work very easy."
Many of the farms that use Hello Tractor rely on the rain to keep crops growing, explains Oliver. "These are mostly rain-fed agricultural systems ... establishing your crop on time is mission-critical for the grower," he says.
"So being able to get your land prepared, get your crop established before the rain comes, will determine the outcome of your season. And so having access to a tractor allows you to do that so you can earn more money come harvest time."
The start-up was launched in 2014 in Nigeria. It now operates in 13 African countries, as well as three in Asia. Around 3,000 truck owners have used the platform to service more than half a million farmers.