Some California farmers are going a little greener by opting for eco-friendly tools and transitioning to electric-powered, driverless, tractors. The company rolling these high-tech tractors out, Monarch Tractor, says this can help farmers save money, increase production, and help with the agriculture industry's growing labor shortage.
"It’s sustainability in action and its evolution of the human species," fifth-generation winegrower and farmer Karl Wente said. He's been helping Monarch Tractor test the tractors on his farm. "It used to be a big tractor where you can see the diesel combusting out, and now you just have this quiet electric vehicle running through. It's a natural direction," Wente explained.
California has nearly 70,000 farms, and farmers produce billions of pounds of fresh foods every year. Though, every year farmers face challenges, including record-high inflation rates and worsening drought on the West Coast. "Mother Nature bats last, and no two seasons are ever the same," Wente said.
This electric tractor could help with those problems farmers might face, especially by reducing the overall cost of production and growing, the company explained.
"Farmers can now save more money by knowing exactly where to target their resources," Monarch Tractor CEO and Founder Praveen Penmetsa said.
"What this tractor brings with the whole data side is exactly what’s been done to the food. Not only that, but the insights on the farming operations can help farmers to limit their inputs and control their costs," Monarch Tractor Co-founder Mark Schwager said.
Rather than having a driver, the tractor has a remote operator who tracks and receives alerts in real-time. "There is always a human in the loop," Schwager explained.
Safeguards have also been set into place to prevent accidents. The tractor has sensors to detect livestock, crops, and workers and will stop until the tractor's path is no longer obstructed.
The company is hopeful these savings incurred by the farms will be passed off to consumers. "Technology can really make a big impact on bringing the cost down there and the quality up as well," Penmetsa said.