Monarch Tractor Brings Technology to Farms and Vineyards
The year since the unveiling of its new electric tractor, California-based Monarch Tractor is using grants and partnerships to expand the fleet of machines in the hands of producers.
The Livermore, Calif.-Based company now has hundreds of customers waiting for tractors, which are powered by portable batteries and have a driverless option to save money on labor. These buyers include large customers looking to convert their fleets to diesel, said Praveen Penmetsa, co-founder and CEO of Monarch.
To help some producers with the tractor price of $ 58,000, Monarch obtains grants from the USDA, the California Air Resources Board and other agencies. Air Board grants put three tractors in the hands of farmers, and a farmer in Oregon learned last summer that he would get a tractor with help from USDA’s Conservation Innovation Grant.
“New technologies are often more expensive,” Penmetsa told Farm Progress. “Electric cars are more expensive than gasoline cars. In our case, it is – our tractor is more expensive because of the technology it contains. What we are focusing on is how to reduce that cost.
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Penmetsa said the company would eventually like to have the tractor “all over the world.
“We have to have a line of sight to make it competitive,” he said. “We’ve spent a lot of time making sure the technology is successful. “
Among the operations using Monarch tractors is Wente Vineyards in Livermore, which delivered two machines on June 1. Monarch has been testing the property in Livermore for several years, developing its stand-alone features and special tools, fifth-generation winemaker and viticultural director Niki Wente told Farm Progress.
Using an electric tractor is in line with the values of Wente, a family business that has been in operation since 1883 and certified as sustainable, she said.
“We currently use them with drivers, but eventually we would like to use them on their own,” Wente said. One obstacle is that it is currently illegal in California to operate stand-alone farm equipment of more than 20 horsepower under a law imposed after an accident on a farm, she said. But Wente and Monarch are seeking a state exemption to run the tractors on a trial basis.
“I think if we can make them work on their own, we’ll see a lot of improvements in terms of efficiency,” Wente said. “We will have qualified drivers who will operate multiple tractors in the field with a remote device and complete our tasks much faster. “
The tractor is not just for the vines. Hopville Farms in Oregon, with sites in Clatskanie and Independence, has received the USDA grant and will use the tractor to automate some blueberry field maintenance tasks in an effort to reduce diesel fuel use. while improving agricultural productivity. The operation will also work with Monarch and Oregon State University to create a platform for field data collection, which is expected to improve agronomic practices.
Jim Hoffman, the farm owner, told Farm Progress that he expects the tractor to be delivered next spring and that he “can’t wait” to use it.
‘Trifecta’ of the advantages
Unveiled in 2020, Monarch Tractor is presented as the first to offer a “trifecta” of electrification, automation and data analysis that enables sustainable agriculture, increases efficiency and safety and maximizes profitability for producers, according to a press release. The machine’s improved data capture could help a producer improve their practices and increase yields, the company says.
The tractor has spare batteries that can be replaced and removed during the day to keep the machine running and can be charged overnight when electricity demand is lower, Penmetsa said. The self-contained characteristics of the machines allow trained workers to operate multiple machines at a time, which will allow the machine to “pay for itself” in less than two years, he said.
“Many farmers still have difficulty investing this kind of money, especially when faced with other challenges” such as the price of the crop and water, he said. “Grants are a good way for them to lower the bar. We believe that subsidies accelerate the option. We see the tractor standing on its own in terms of profitability.
To learn more about the Monarch tractor, visit www.monarchtractor.com.
[This story has been updated to reflect the latest information on the number of pending orders.]