Photograph — commons.wikimedia

American renowned farm equipment maker, Deere & Co. is partnering with Nigerian startup, Hello Tractors to provide farmers in Africa with easy access to tractors simply by a button click. 

The U.S. company will be supplying its tractors via Hello Tractor’s technology, which allows farmers to hail the machines through an app that also monitors the vehicles’ movements and transmits usage information such as fuel levels.

Having identified a gap between the demand and supply of necessary farming machines on the continent, Deere & Co. plans to “see that every farmer has access to mechanization,” said Jacques Taylor, Head of John Deere’s sub-Saharan Africa in an interview.

This new partnership is widely expected to favour all the parties involved. For the automaker, it would help boost the sales of its green and yellow John Deere tractors, which the company has had a hard time selling in Africa due to the high poverty ratio and poor rates of mechanizing in a society that heavily depends on agriculture. 

The collaboration will also help to expand the operations of Hello Tractor, which has been nicknamed “Uber of Tractors”, into many other African countries and help the startup upgrade its technology to be more inclusive for uneducated smallholder farmers who make up a large percentage of its users.

According to Jahiel Oliver, Founder of Hello Tractor, Nigeria alone needs 750,000 (more) tractors to be on the global average. “Our technology is a market-maker for tractor manufacturers who want to sell into those markets,” Oliver said.

Moreover, farmers in Africa will have access to and experience John Deere’s tractor brand which may inform the choice of machine they may want to achieve in the near future if they eventually like them. It would also make farmers that enjoy the use of the machines to promote and recommend them to potential buyers who may seek their opinion on which to buy.

More importantly, many smallholder farmers will be offered access to mechanized farming at a convenient and affordable cost. But Deere & Co. may risk running into a loss based on the fact that smallholder farmers in Africa are mostly poor and many time not able to get financial aid for their operations, experts have said.

The Hello Tractors technology is currently being tested on around 400 tractors in both Kenya and Ghana. It fits a small black box, the life of the technology, beneath the tractors dashboard. Deere & Co. also plans to roll out the devices across Africa in the second half of 2020, offering it to all contractors who buy its equipment on the continent.

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