Tech giant IBM in collaboration with Nigerian agri-tech startup Hello Tractor has unveiled a blockchain and AI-powered digital wallet and decision-making tool for the agriculture sector.
The new tool, according to Solomon Assefa, VP of emerging market solutions and director at IBM Research – Africa, will aim to "digitize, optimize, and streamline agricultural business processes to create efficiencies and new services from farm-to-fork around the world".
The motivation of developing the new tool was to streamline the current time-consuming processes. "In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 60% of crops are managed manually, with less than 20% managed by tractors", Assefa said. This is an unsustainable model as food demand increases due to the increasing population growth, which averages 11 million per year. "In addition, up to 50% of farmers suffer post-harvest losses annually due to poor planting practices," Assefa added.
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IBM Research, IBM's R&D department, is developing the technology in their lab based in Nairobi, Kenya. According to IBM, its research scientists are working to integrate a number of technologies into the mobile app such as the Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture, blockchain, IoT and IBM Cloud.
Assefa said: "The magic behind the idea is what we call an agriculture digital wallet, a blockchain-enabled and AI-based decision support platform that 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."
The app intends to address a vast cross-section of the agriculture industry including farmers, tractor fleet owners, tractor dealers, banks and financial institutions and governing bodies.
The new tool will initially only be available in Kenya, but IBM has plans to expand its offering to Kenya, Mozambique, Senegal, Tanzania, Pakistan and Bangladesh, however no exact time-frame was noted.
IBM also revealed that for the next phase of the project with Hello Tractor the company is looking to combine machine learning and image recognition to predict cultivation quality.
The new mobile app will be pilot tested during the first half of 2019.