Jehiel Oliver: “Hello Tractor”
Hello Tractor is described as a low cost but smart mini tractor. It is a smart tractor that comes with a GPS antenna. The company has the ability to alert an owner if the tractor is in need of maintenance, and they can also use the location data of the tractor to get it to nearby places where its needed. So far, 1000 tractors have been sold in Nigeria costing $4000 each.
The innovative mind behind the idea of Hello Tractor is founder and CEO, Jehiel Oliver. Oliver has had a lifelong goal of wanting “to make a difference in the world.” His interest in the global poor who make their living from farming led him to the idea of creating a cheap tractor. He researched Nigeria and learned that it has great agricultural land. He also learned that a low cost tractor can drastically change the lives of people there. For one, the tractors can plow more land in a few hours then what it takes laborers without one, which equals more yield production.
Olivier also had to think about the price of the tractor, to make it affordable for people to purchase, “A typical entry-level tractor in Nigeria is 55 horse power, ” he says, “Ours is 15. [The] 55 horse power tractor [costs] around $40 000. [Hello Tractor] is $4000.” Olivier went on to share these numbers at SXSW’s Global Innovation Challenge , a pitch competition that he won. Part of the winnings is the opportunity to attend President Obama’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit in June.
The importance of tractors in Africa
Calestous Juma is a Harvard scholar and native Kenyan, and a leader of the centers Agricultural innovation policy in Africa Project. Juma’s research shows that there is a need for tractors in Africa but there are very few tractors to satisfy this need. To put it into perspective, Juma states that worlwide you can find an average of 200 tractors every 100 000 square kilometers (roughly 70 000 square miles). Whilst in Africa, the average is 13.
As much as tractors are helpful, they also have their down side. Juma finds that in the developing world, they can replace laborers and be blamed for taking workers jobs. And tractors also need maintenance and spare parts that may be hard to find in Africa, at times even taking months before a person can get their hands on a spare part.
Olivier says his company is trying to fix that. One of the ways is if a part breaks, farmers can use the tractor’s Short Message Service and text message Abuja headquarters to buy a replacement.