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Monarch Tractor founders stand beside the latest farming tech: an autonomous e-tractor. One will soon debut at Wente Vineyards. (Photo - Monarch Tractor)

LIVERMORE – Following a partnership with Wente Vineyards, Monarch Tractor recently relocated to Livermore.

Local harvesters will soon join farmers across the state in rolling out autonomous tractors.

Monarch Tractor designed the first fully electric, driver-optional, smart tractor. Released on Dec. 8, the new tractor will make an appearance at the vineyard in early 2021.

Originally based in Fremont, Monarch approached Wente Vineyards earlier this year about using some of the winery’s land to experiment with the new technology. Their partnership eventually led Monarch to transfer all its operations – including manufacturing – to the Livermore area.

“They explained their whole vision, their company background; how they’re all about sustainability and innovation and how they were looking for somewhere they could drive their tractors through vineyards – work on open ground, test all their stuff,” said Brad Kurtz, viticulturalist for Wente. “They have a little 8-acre parcel in the back where we created a test site for them, and we have been working collaboratively with them . . . we both have similar values and vision, and Wente is always trying to be on the forefront of innovation and technology, and it’s worked out well.”

Established in 2018, the Monarch Tractor founders wanted to utilize 21st-century technology to empower farmers to implement sustainable and organic practices.

“The Monarch Tractor and our technology are ready for farmers around the world to start using our tractor and help you make more money and take control of your farm,” said Praveen Penmetsa, co-founder and CEO of Monarch. “All of this at a global scale means that you can really trust the Monarch Tractor to do your mission critical applications today.”

Mark Schwager, Monarch co-founder and president, stated that the company won’t ask farmers to choose between profitability and sustainability.

“The two have to come together,” he continued.

Schwager noted the tractor’s ability to collect data – combined with its electric engine and autonomous capabilities – will fundamentally change farmers’ economics and allow them to become more profitable. The high-tech tractors can perform preprogrammed tasks without a driver. As an alternative, an operator can use Monarch’s interactive automation features to make the machine follow a worker on the job.

The Monarch Tractor’s price starts at $50,000. Schwager said a comparable John Deere will retail for approximately $35,000, but cost thousands more in the long run.

“Because of the operating cost differential, our product will save a famer $280 a day in operating costs, so we make up that differential in less than six months,” he said.

Kurtz stated that Wente shares Monarch’s commitment to sustainable practices.

“Sustainable practices are often limited because they are difficult to do and are very time consuming,” Kurtz said. “When you don’t have an operator, time no longer becomes a real factor, and you can run a tractor, potentially, 24/7 … it changes the whole equation and allows you to embrace some of these practices that are more financially possible.”

He noted removing the human from the equation makes it a much safer tractor as well.

The farming world will have its eyes riveted on the Bay Area as these new tractors begin to make their way into vineyards, orchards and fields next year. Chris Chandler of the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association said she was excited to see Monarch establish its headquarters and take root in the Livermore Valley.

“Monarch Tractor is helping wine grape growers get on a clear path to sustainable farming,” said Chandler. “Their mission aligns with our own to advance, protect and promote the quality wines, vineyards and experiences of Livermore Valley Wine Country.”

For more information on Monarch Tractor, visit https://www.monarchtractor.com/.