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Down to Earth Month: Climate Action and Electric Tractors

When discussing reduced herbicide use or organic farming, a common argument made is that more tractor passes are required, which increases emissions and the carbon footprint of vineyard operations. However, that no longer has to be the case as electric tractors are entering the market that are competitive with, or even outcompete, conventional tractors. The 100% electric Monarch Tractor has been developed here in our backyard, and the development team includes Napa Valley Vintner and Monarch Co-Founder and Chief Farming Officer, Carlo Mondavi.

A Monarch Tractor in operation for 1,000 hours a year will prevent 53 tons of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere annually, when compared to a diesel tractor. Monarch also includes a digital plugin that can share your real-time emissions offsets on your website or in your tasting room.

The Monarch Tractor can be driven by an operator, just like a conventional tractor, or drive itself autonomously, freeing up workers for other tasks. There are two power options – 2WD and 4WD – with 10+ hours of operational run time. Monarch Tractor is currently conducting pilots in vineyards to determine how long the tractors can run with different attachments and on varying slopes. Each tractor is programmed for owner properties and actively “learns” as it operates in the vineyard. For safety when running autonomously, the tractor senses workers and stops until they are no longer in the path. 

I expected some skepticism from our vineyard team, but they actually walked away very impressed. It could be especially valuable for mechanical weed control, a practice we’re relying upon more and more.

- Nate Weis, Winemaker at Silver Oak

The cost of the Monarch Tractor is no obstacle, either. The Carl Moyer program provides incentives to trade out conventional tractors for electric models, and depending on the type of tractor you are trading out, can cover anywhere from 50-85% of the cost of a Monarch Tractor. Better yet, the Monarch Tractor team has dedicated members to help do the paperwork for you. With or without subsidy support you will see annual operational and emissions savings; you can find your estimated saving with their online savings calculator.

The 2WD Monarch Tractor is $50,000 and the 4WD is $60,000. The battery, which can be swapped by one person in under ten minutes, is charged using standard car charger plugs (J1772). Make your deposit now as there is already a waiting list until spring/summer 2022.

I've been at this for 30 years and this is the best, most well-thought-out program I've ever seen.​

- Yvon Chouinard, Environmentalist and Founder of Patagonia