Visiting NZ's first electric tractor at the Monarch Factory in California
Euan and I had the privilege of being invited to see the Monarch Factory in California and play with one of their pilot vehicles.
The TLDR; we were amazed that these tractors appear to function as promised and far better than we anticipated, providing a completely electric and driver optional tractor that will completely revolutionise horticulture and viticulture in New Zealand as we know it.
Jake from Monarch showed us the electrical systems, battery and capability, and then took us to a trial site at Wente Vineyards, so that we could drive it, and see the autonomy in action.
The potential of this machine is astounding. There is no reason we cannot use it to do 100% of the mowing, spraying, mulching and data analysis on the farm in a fully automated fashion.
The safety systems are impressive, whether it is running in
manual control - with a driver controlling the speed and direction;
co-pilot - with the tractor in ‘row-following’ mode and the driver visually checking operation of implements etc;
shadow-mode - with the operator walking in front of the tractor, controlling its movement with their path; or most excitingly:
autonomous mode - the operator sets the route and speed, and the settings for the implements, and then walks away!
Basically, whatever you think this tractor can do, it will do it with ease and then surprise you.
Here are some examples of videos we were allowed to take.
Monarch Tractor entering a specific row autonomously:
Monarch Tractor driving autonomously between rows:
Monarch Tractor in Shadow Mode - Follows you around the farm:
The battery on the tractor is such that it will comfortably haul 1-2 tonnes required for a foliage sprayer or produce trailer during harvest or any other implements for a day of work. We are more than confident that this can run our implements all day with ease.
It charges using a standard EV plug using a 3 phase 21kW charger.
The PTO and hydraulic setup on the rear is the same as a traditional tractor, so existing implements can be attached and used as normal.
The PTO and hydraulics will cause a high power draw, which means less runtime.
Our solution is to develop our own fully-electric foliar sprayer, which will be powered directly from the Monarch Tractor battery off the 230V output, which integrates with the Monarch Autonomous controls. The team at Monarch is excited to see this come to fruition, because it is a much cheaper and more environmentally solution to buying a second battery pack.
We expect the Monarch tractor to arrive at FLO in early 2023, due to the funding help provided by EECA through their demonstration grant funding.