The time has come for the Monarch to spread its wings and fly, letting farmers make use of the world’s first electric, driver optional, smart utility tractor. And, the first deployment of its flagship tractor is at Livermore, CA-based Wente Vineyards, the oldest, continuously operated family winery in the United States. Wente Vineyards has built a stable of world-renowned brands and believes strongly in sustainability.
“It’s a great opportunity to deploy our tractor and showcase the sustainability side, but also the impact it’s going to have on their economics from a business standpoint,” says Monarch Tractor CEO Praveen Penmetsa. “Our tractor has undergone strenuous real-world testing and is now ready to get to work and deliver on the promise of a more sustainable and efficient farming operation.”
Niki Wente, fifth generation winegrower at Wente Vineyards
Monarch Tractor and Wente have been partners throughout the tractor’s beta phase. The two companies found synergy with Monarch’s traditional farming features, cutting-edge technology and sustainable capabilities, merging the Livermore wine region with Silicon Valley tech.
“We are always interested in learning about new technology that can further aid our sustainability goals and create a more efficient vineyard,” Niki Wente, viticulture manager and fifth generation winegrower of Wente Vineyards, tells IndustryWeek. “Our goal in adding these tractors to our fleet includes reducing emissions, exploring automation and the potential for mutli-tractors per operator activities.”
According to Penmetsa, this deployment is a great opportunity for Wente’s farmers to use the tractor without anyone looking over their shoulder. “There are a lot of firsts, and we are excited to see how they use and treat the equipment. They have a lot of different terrains, and it will be interesting to see how they use the tractor on a hilly terrain.”
Wente VineyardsWhen the tractors initially arrive, Wente will likely begin with mowing, explains Wente. “But we hope to use them for a number of different activities, including fungicide, vineyard installation and vineyard removal as well as harvest activities such as light tower towing for hand picks and gondola driving for machine picks,” she says.
The Monarch Tractor is equipped with a smart screen that is constantly collecting data on the tractor – data that Penmetsa’s team will ultimately provide back to Wente. “We are excited to see how the viticulture and operations teams utilize the data,” he says. “The challenge for us is going to be simplifying some of these insights to avoid inundating them with reams of data instead of focusing on actionable insights they can act upon immediately.”
Monarch is also putting reports together as part of this delivery, comparing its tractor directly with Wente’s existing diesel tractor fleet to analyze and quantify emissions and cost savings. Says Penmetsa, “One of the goals of this deployment is to showcase that our tractor can not only replace an existing tractor, but also provide emissions displacement and cost savings for the farmer.”
With that in mind, Wente Vineyards is a great case study for Monarch because it is not a small, boutique vineyard. “Being able to showcase that we are a great fit at Wente means we can go to all the large growers – whether it’s grapes, blueberries or apples – and demonstrate that our offering is a specialty utility tractor capable of performing all the tasks these 1000+ acre farmers need to accomplish.”
Wente VineyardsMonarch Tractor’s early deployment is due in part to the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) Farming Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions (FARMER) program. The FARMER Program is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment, particularly in underserved communities. Additionally, CARB contributed to the FARMER program by adding Advanced Technology Demonstration Projects, an initiative leading to a grant offered to Monarch Tractor by CARB through the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
“Monarch has demonstrated great leadership in the manufacturing industry to help reduce air pollution and protect the climate with their innovative zero-emission farming equipment,” said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Air District, in a statement. “The Air District was pleased to award Monarch this grant funding to further this work.”
Road ahead? These two tractors are just the beginning of an investment in the future of farming, explains Penmetsa. Wente is also deploying a charger as well as a base station for all the data collection. “This type of infrastructure investments is similar to what we would expect most larger farm customers to make — not just for the sake of our tractor, but also for this digital transformation that’s coming in for farming,” he says.