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AgTech: IBM Research, Hello Tractor partners on AI and Blockchain

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Nigeria’s Hello Tractor has partnered IBM Research to pilot an agriculture digital wallet and decision-making tool that provides demand and supply visibility for stakeholders- farmers, tractor fleet providers and banks.

Launched in 2014, Hello Tractor is focused on improving smallholder farmers’ access to timely and affordable tractor services, along with other farm inputs. Its mobile app aggregates tractor service requests and then pairs them with recommended tractors and operators, while 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 smallholder 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,” said Jehiel Oliver, chief executive officer (CEO) and founder of Hello Tractor.

To achieve this, Hello Tractor has partnered with IBM Research, which struck a similar partnership with Kenya’s Twiga Foods earlier this year. Scientists at IBM’s research lab in Nairobi are working with Hello Tractor’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.

The new services will be tested in a pilot starting in the first half of 2019. The backbone of the agriculture digital wallet is a blockchain-enabled and AI-based decision support platform, which enables 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.

“Our vision is to leverage AI, blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT) to digitise, optimise, and streamline agricultural business processes to create efficiencies and new services from farm-to-fork around the world,” said Dr Solomon Assefa, vice president for emerging market solutions and director at IBM Research Africa.

For the next phase of the project, IBM researchers and Hello Tractor engineers are looking to use machine learning with image recognition to predict the quality of cultivation. Plans are also underway to expand the platform beyond Nigeria to Kenya, Mozambique, Senegal, Tanzania, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

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