Company Pushes for Self-Driving Tractors Across State
Agtech company Monarch is looking to deploy fleets of driverless electric tractors to operations across California by the end of this year, a feat that could make it the first company to station autonomous vehicles in the state’s agricultural industry.
Monarch is petitioning to change Californian laws that an operator must be at the controls of “self-propelled equipment” when in motion, and roll out its pipeline of smart tractors to vineyards and farms across the state.
According to the company, its tractors offer a fuel-efficient and emissions-reducing alternative to traditional farming vehicles, as well as a safer workspace for farmers.
“The tractor driver seat is one of the most dangerous places on small farms with exposure to chemicals, harsh elements and equipment issues including implements,” said Praveen Penmetsa, co-founder and CEO of Monarch Tractor.
With self-driving tractors, one farmer could be responsible for several autonomous vehicles at once, controlling them remotely and freeing up other workers for other tasks.
The smart tractor also comes equipped with features allowing farmers to detect crop issues and water stress, as well as apply sprays with more precision and identify potential obstacles to its path including livestock and workers.
The self-driving feature is optional, with the tractors already used in some agricultural sites without this feature, such as Livermore’s Wente Vineyards, which has been testing Monarch tractors since 2019.
“We truly believe that autonomy is the way of the future in farming,” said Niki Wente, director of vineyard operations at Livermore’s Wente Vineyards. “It’s potentially a revolution.”
Other companies also are featuring self-driving tractors, most notably John Deere, which showcased its fully autonomous tractor at CES in Las Vegas earlier this year.