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Ethiopian agritech startup Hello Erf has been named a finalist in a global competition that recognizes innovative solutions with a $1 million Grand Prize.

Hello Erf, which connects smallholder farmers with mechanization service providers, will compete against 24 other startups from 13 countries in the Milken-Motsepe Prize in AgriTech competition.

The competition that looking for solutions that increase the economic value of small and medium-sized African farms began in 2021 and received around 350 applicants. 

Hell Erf, which aims to make agri-mechanization services accessible and affordable to farmers while also making it a profitable business for service providers, advanced to the finalist round after passing through the Design Round.

Founded by Alazar Michael and Gizachew Mesfine, who have a combined 20 years of multi-disciplinary expertise in technology and agribusiness, Hello Erf went operational in June 2022.

According to Hello Erf, only 16% of the 14 million farming households in Ethiopia use farm machinery, with the rest relying on animal or human labor.

This limits productivity and leads to harvest and post-harvest losses. Despite the availability of over 15,000 farm machines owned by individuals and farmer organizations in the country, their utilization is limited to 40–50% due to uncoordinated demand, seasonal agricultural activities, and a lack of maintenance services.

Hello Erf aims to address these challenges by connecting smallholder farmers to mechanization service providers through its IoT-based digital solution, increasing access to mechanization, boosting productivity, reducing post-harvest loss, and freeing up time for off-farm economic activities.

On Hello Erf, farmers or officers can call directly to the call center to book farms after clustering. Operators at the call center can look up the web app for the nearest idle tractor and link with the farmer group. Tractor owners and operators can manage bookings and track the status of the machine via the mobile app.

“We are currently operating in Amhara Regional State and we have onboarded 71 service providers while serving close to 1000 farmers,” Alazar Michael Co-founder and Business Development Manager at Hello Erf told Shega.  

Alazar stated the startup invested its knowledge, expertise, and finances into developing the product and simultaneously pursued partnerships and awards that would elevate Hello Erf’s success.

In the final round of the competition, teams will develop their prototypes and conduct field tests on small and medium-sized farms in Africa. The winner will be announced in early May, and expert judges will assess field test data from competing teams to award the $1 million grand prize and other prizes, including second- and third-place prizes of $300,000 and $150,000, respectively.

Additionally, the People’s Choice bonus prize allows the public to vote for the team they think has the most transformative solution. The finalist team receiving the most votes will win $100,000.

Click here to vote for Hello Erf in the People’s Choice bonus prize.

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Kaleab Girma, an Addis Ababa-based reporter and researcher, with over six years of experience in the field. He currently serves as Shega's Editor-in-Chief and specializes in reporting on small businesses, innovation, technology, and startups in Ethiopia.

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