In Summary
  • Soon, farmers should be ready to upgrade their old fashioned tractors and opt for the modern smart technology tractors that offer farmers the benefits of telematics, GPS and data analytics – if they are to match the global trends. Denis Bbosa explores this new technology on the market and how active and expectant smallholder farmers can reap big from it.

Ugandan farmers can run, can hide but they cannot escape the effects of technology, for it has changed the way the world does business.
Inevitably, the agriculture sector too should embrace technology because it has the potential to boost productivity and contribute to building food security in Uganda.
On Tuesday, John Deere Africa, a company dealing in tractors unveiled large tractors through their Smart approach to agriculture at Munyonyo Speke Resort.

Geoff R. Anderson, the director of regional strategic planning in the company, told the anxious participants that the Smart app concept focuses on developing solutions for small-scale farmers and helping them to mechanise their operations increase yields, improve access to finance and increase the reliability of their activities so input costs can be controlled, and access to technology and agricultural education can be facilitated.
They also learned that the John Deere ‘Hello Tractor’ programme connects tractor owners to farmers through an Internet-of-Things (IoT) enabled digital solution.

How the Smart app works
Hello Tractor’s solution begins with a hardware-monitoring device that can be installed on any tractor, connecting it to the Hello Tractor cloud for remote data tracking and analytics.
This durable, adaptable, and affordable device is designed for rugged use and extreme weather conditions. It is fitted with an international SIM card for higher connectivity but can store activity data locally if no connection exists.
Once the device is in place, data is transferred to Hello Tractor’s mobile applications, where it is displayed in a user-friendly format.

Interesting features
The Tractor Owner App incorporates a number of tools to enhance a tractor owner’s business and operations, including:
Access new customers: view farmers’ requests for tractor services, including the date, time, and implement required, and schedule your fleet’s activities accordingly.Increase efficiency fleet management: view the location of your tractors and manage your fleet remotely, through our mobile and web platforms. Tractor management: monitor your tractors’ active engine hours to predict maintenance needs and match fuel consumption to service delivery. Improve oversight operator performance: review operator ratings and feedback compiled based on farmers’ satisfaction to ensure high quality service delivery.

Daily activity reports: access custom activity reports available by asset or fleet to understand utilization rates and improve operations.Weather forecasting: access geo-targeted weather forecasts to better plan planting time, tractor service delivery, and avoid delays. Hello Tractor’s Booking Agent App integrates seamlessly with the Tractor Owner App, aggregating the service requests entered by each agent and pairing them with the appropriate tractor owner. Once a booking agent submits a request, the platform routes it directly to an available tractor owner nearby with the applicable implement to service the job. Hello Tractor recruits and trains its own network of booking agents to help reach farmers in need of service.

The benefits
The service enables farmers using the Internet to locate and request affordable tractor services during crucial planting and harvesting times.
Tractor owners benefit and enjoy the enhanced security provided through remote asset tracking and virtual monitoring.

Costs
With in-built maintenance software and hardware, it is less surprising that tractors ranging from 55 horse power to 75 cost about $150,000 (Shs580m). The technology has been tested in Kenya and Ghana. Andersen believes it will succeed in Uganda.
Africa and Uganda in particular, have a tractor deficit compared to other parts because of the limited access to finances.