New Delhi: Two global companies are partnering to launch an ‘Uber’-like tractor leasing services in India.

Aeris, a California-based technology company specialising in Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, and Hello Tractor, a social enterprise focusing on agriculture technology which has previously worked with farmers in Nigeria and Kenya, is planning to launch a pay-as-you-use tractor service for Indian farmers.

According to Rishi Mohan Bhatnagar, President of Aeris India, the service is likely to be launched with 500 tractors in less than three months in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where fewer farmers can afford expensive machinery, unlike relatively prosperous and large farmers in states like Punjab and Haryana where ownership of farm equipment is high.

“Our goal is to replicate the experience of Hello Tractor in Africa where the intervention speeded up cultivation and reduced costs for farmers," Bhatnagar said, adding, “We will be working with both tractor manufacturers and owners to provide the service."

Hello Tractor uses an easy-to-use app to connect users to tractor owners, at a price depending on hours of use and area covered.

Small farmers in India are often unable to purchase equipment like tractors. Also, purchasing a tractor does not make business sense for most farmers in India who cultivate small parcels of land.

A recent survey by the National Bank For Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) found poor penetration of farm machinery. Only 5.2% of agricultural households in India owned a tractor and just 1.8% owned a power tiller, showed the NABARD All-India Rural Financial Inclusion Survey (NAFIS) released in August.

Renting services for farm machinery have gained ground in India in the past few years. Companies like EM3, which launched operations in Madhya Pradesh in 2014 and reached states like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan later, and Trringo, a farm equipment rental business of Mahindra & Mahindra, provide similar services.

State governments, too, with financial assistance from the Centre, have set up custom hiring centres (CHCs) in rural India.

In this model local youth who are also agriculture graduates set up CHCs with government grants and low interest loans from banks. Farmers can rent a host of machinery used from ploughing to harvesting from these centres. Madhya Pradesh alone has set up 2,300 such centres so far since it launched the programme in 2012-13.

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