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Electric self-driving tractors that could make farming much easier

MONARCH

A startup based in California says it can help farmers be greener and more profitable by offering what it describes as the world’s first fully electric, self-driving tractor.

The compact tractor can be programmed to perform tasks such as plowing, harvesting and mowing, and can operate for more than 10 hours from a four to five-hour charge, according to its makers, Monarch Tractor.

Although it doesn’t need a driver, to comply with US regulations it must have a designated remote operator who receives real-time alerts and can stop the vehicle if needed. It has sensors that can detect livestock and crops, and collision prevention systems that allow it to operate autonomously alongside farm workers.

Monarch founder and CEO Praveen Penmetsa says when one of its tractors replaces a diesel vehicle, and is charged with renewable electricity, it can reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The tractors are also able to collect data while they operate, which can give farmers information on field and crop health and long-term yields, as well as alerting them to problems such as irrigation leaks or crop discoloration.

Over the next two months, it will deploy its first tractors to farmers in California, Washington and Oregon. The farmers will work with Monarch to test the vehicles, and the company hopes to deliver production tractors later this year, with prices starting from $58,000. Monarch says the tractors can save farmers thousands of dollars a year in labor and fuel costs.

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