Jehiel Oliver, founder and CEO of Hello Tractor, recently discussed the convergence of African traditions, technology, and agriculture. Addressing the continent’s potential as well as its challenges, Oliver presents a refreshing vision for the future of farming.
Technology is becoming pivotal in Africa’s agricultural domain, with smallholder farming systems needing a tech-driven approach for optimisation. “The average plot sizes are below five acres. Leveraging technology and innovative thinking ensures services reach these unique growers profitably,” says Oliver.
Oliver has been redefining the agriculture narrative through the principle of Ubuntu. His approach involves taking assets like tractors, typically used a few days per year by farmers with small fields and making them available community-wide. By sharing assets, tractor owners can support fellow farmers and earn additional income. “It’s about taking from those who have and bringing the smaller players into the fold, ensuring mutual benefit.”
Hello Tractor has rapidly scaled its vision across 15 African countries. It is now serving more than 4,000 farm equipment owners. These owners cater to millions of acres of smallholder farm farmland, reflecting a network unparalleled in emerging markets. This unique business model bridges the gap between equipment owners, smallholder farmers, and community agents using Hello Tractor’s app, forging connections, and driving efficiency.
The app also incorporates AI technology to monitor how many acres are being worked by operators. This ensures consistency in what is reported from a revenue perspective given how community agents work on commission.
“Despite Africa having almost a quarter of the world’s productive farmland, it contributes only 2% to the global food trade. We want the continent to not only become self-sufficient, but also to transform into a net contributor to the global food system and become the sixth breadbasket of the world,” says Oliver.
Given how quickly Africa is urbanising, questions on the future of agriculture seem natural. For Oliver, the distinction lies in a nation’s heritage around land ownership and its perception of agriculture as a business.
Hello Tractor’s mission is clear: redefine farming, make it more efficient, profitable, and attractive to younger generations. “We’re introducing farming with technology, glamour, and swagger. It’s about making farming Instagrammable and appealing to a younger generation,” he says.
Oliver is optimistic on policy alignment. The Continental Free Trade Agreement promises improved movement of goods and services, acting as a backbone for such innovations. While governments face their limitations, Hello Tractor’s model proves that private sectors can significantly influence and positively alter the agricultural landscape.
“Lifting as we rise, ensuring everyone wins is the core of our mission. The future is about leaving no one behind,” he concludes.
To learn more about Hello Tractor’s groundbreaking initiatives and Jehiel Oliver’s insights and his focus on being on the correct side of technology, tune in Michelin’s “What’s Treading” podcast.