Developed in Detroit and now based in Wisconsin, MIT Media Lab’s .DASH platform is automating some of the older parts of farm maintenance. The e-transportation, driven by software, is referred to as “autonomous farm equipment,” and its focus is on speeding up the time it takes to deliver rental equipment.
Deere & Co., the world’s largest farm equipment maker, has partnered with Tanzania’s Blue Bird Motorcycles, a five-century-old pre-emerged small-bus manufacturer based in Nairobi, Kenya, to distribute portable tractor-hailing service.
The problem Deere wants to solve is making more progress in Africa, where output from small-scale farmers has only recently made a significant impact in food and farming yields.
Deere shares dropped nearly 3 percent on Monday after saying its quarterly profit and sales are likely to miss analysts’ expectations as some U.S. farmers delay purchases amid a global market slump.
Protesters chant “no more apartheid” to shut down Bidwell Street
“We are optimistic about Africa, especially Nigeria, Angola and Kenya,” Mike Donnelly, chief executive of Deere Equipment Africa, said on Friday, during a visit to Mombasa.
The agricultural machinery giant founded in 1837 in Moline, Illinois, is expanding its footprint on the continent, having set up shop in five countries, including its largest business in Africa, in a five-year budget of more than $1 billion.
Currently, 90 percent of Deere’s employees in Africa work in its agricultural machinery unit, with the country’s workforce comprising 20 percent of the regional workforce.
In the last five years, the company has increased its land investments in Africa from just over 1 million acres in 2011 to about 20 million acres today, Donnelly added.
The company has 10 manufacturing centers across Africa to service, repair and sell equipment.
To improve the reliability of rental equipment, Deere is experimenting with e-transportation of compact tractors and other farm tools.
Ro-Ro driver targeted
The tractor is rented to a driver in an e-booklet, who then calls a dispatcher to show that he is willing to operate the machine.
The employee does not need to arrive at the location at the specified time, but they usually work on the leased equipment under supervision, allowing the equipment’s rental operator to spend more time at the farm.
The company doesn’t plan to implement e-transportation of heavy equipment.
It plans to continue working with partners to integrate e-transportation of mobile agricultural equipment into more African markets.
“We are currently exploring whether to adapt our concept in some African markets, and would consider using e-transportation as a payment system to minimize dispatching time,” Donnelly said.
He added that e-transportation is operating in three countries, with Rwanda, Madagascar and Chad the most advanced markets.
Deere plans to launch its e-transportation system in Kenya and Tanzania by 2019.
Morocco removes mining ban, launches roadblock
Morocco lifted a four-year ban on mining that protected the Oulad Amazigh, a sub-Saharan African language.
Exporters were facing difficulties because the government had asked them to fund any future revenue-generating project. Morocco needed to support efforts to promote its mining projects overseas.
The law lifting the ban on mining for uranium and gold was signed into law by King Mohammed VI.
“To achieve this new ambition the Kingdom is seeking projects that contribute to the economic and social development of Morocco’s populations and its emerging regions,” Cabinet spokesman Abdelghani Hamel said.
The lifting of the ban comes during a decision by the Moroccan government to abandon its roadblocks in the north of the country after five years of curbing the movement of vehicles.