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Hello Tractor proves access is everything: how IoT is raising agricultural incomes

30 Mar 2021
Ludo Fassati headshot

Ludovico Fassati

Head of IoT, Vodafone Americas

Digital transformation is a data-centric revolution that is opening up new opportunities across multiple sectors and geographies.

The Internet of Things, or IoT, plays a key role in this and is enabling businesses to make their operations more efficient and even helps them create completely new revenue streams. By giving businesses access to data from their operations, IoT is also supporting them to expand their ecosystem of partners and create new synergies that support their growth.

Hello Tractor is a great example of this in action. Their award-winning software means agricultural equipment dealers and owners, financial institutions and farmers can be more productive and their operations more profitable.

Of course, there’s more to it than that, so Ludovico Fassati spoke with Hello Tractor’s CEO and co-founder, Jehiel Oliver, to hear more about the company’s vision and technology.

Ludovico: What is Hello Tractor's vision and benefits?

JO: Farmers across emerging markets have traditionally planted late, under-cultivated their land, and lost income because they don't have access to agricultural equipment or labour. Our goal with Hello Tractor is to address this problem head-on by making existing equipment in these markets available in the most convenient, most affordable way possible.

When farmers plant on time they get more grain, optimise their yield and earn more money.

Equipment and services such as the tractor and operator, are usually one-third of the cost of manual labour, if the labour is even available, and 30-40 times faster. Community-based agents help get the word out about Hello Tractor. They also assist farmers in booking via the service’s app since most do not have smartphones.

Then, by facilitating access to tractors and agricultural services we also bring value to the equipment owners. They earn money by selling off excess capacity. This can be a consistent side hustle, but tractor owners traditionally felt uncomfortable moving their equipment into new communities.

That’s where Vodafone comes in. Using an IoT-based solution, they can protect their equipment. Through the connected Hello Tractor platform, owners can remotely manage equipment and operators, plus monitor their performance and service more farmers across the country all from the comfort of their home without the fear of being defrauded.

Ludovico: Please tell us more about the technology behind the Hello Tractor platform.

JO: We sell a monitoring device that fits onto any class of tractor and gives the owner visibility into their tractor’s location and usage via our mobile app. At the very core of our technology is IoT connectivity, so the depth and breadth of the Vodafone network is really mission-critical for our business.

The visibility into where the tractors are at all times is critical, not only to the owners but also to the banks that financed them in case of a lack of repayments. Tractor dealers also use us because they want to account for tractor engine hours and scheduled maintenance. Then there are the technical insights around the edges that help us improve our business.

In terms of data, we capture tractor location — that's just our basic dots on a map. We also collect engine data, ignition status, battery power, operator performance — a mix of what an operator is doing with the tractor while idle or running — plus user-generated data in the form of feedback from our marketplace about the operators.

Because Vodafone has such a strong network, we can put IoT on top of the tractors and integrate the analytics layer.

We are vertical experts, thought leaders and innovators in the low horsepower tractor domain and the business of agriculture equipment, but we don’t know how to build out the connectivity layer. That’s what we lean on Vodafone for. Partnerships are extremely important to us across our ecosystem. They’re a key ingredient to our success.

This opens up an entirely new category of customers using non-traditional underwriting metrics to assess risk before and manage risk post loan disbursement. When the tractors with our connected technology earn revenue they automatically pay down the loan.

Seven acres of work might translate to a loan repayment of $70, if say the fee is $10 in loan repayment per acre. Every time the tractor owner goes out, they’re repaying at a rate that's greater than the depreciation and, thereby, protecting their collateral.

Ludovico: Where is Hello Tractor going next?

JO: With the help of Vodafone’s reach and ecosystem, we want to get our technology into the hands of more farmers and equipment owners in more regions. We focus on the needs of these micro-entrepreneurs and business owners, while Vodafone not only helps us with the IoT backbone but also with sales and distribution.

As a small company, we can’t yet support a global salesforce, yet there are so many countries that could benefit from Hello Tractor technology — making a difference directly to people’s lives and the economy as a whole. To do so, we look forward to leveraging partnerships like the one we have with Vodafone to deliver impact across the last mile.

Our journey now is predicated on how quickly and efficiently we can get the technology out there but doing it in a way where everybody's incentives are being met — from the farmers and equipment owners to the dealers, banks and corporate partners.

Find out more about how IoT can help propel your business forward and support growth.

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