American drivers have plenty of options when it comes to electric cars, but what about farmers? The electrification of the agricultural industry is a lucrative and relatively untapped market. However, first, the technology needs to be sold to farmers, many of whom are hesitant about the switch.
This is where Robert Wallace, an expert on electric tech, comes in. He is offering farms in Oregon free test runs of tractors from California-based startup Solectrac and outfitting them with data-gathering sensors to prove the tech.
Companies like Solectrac and Monarch are producing models of small tractors meant for farmers of berry farms, vineyards, and hobby farms. These tractors offer farmers long battery life, low carbon emissions, and even autonomous vehicles from Monarch.
With increasing fuel prices, big and small farmers alike are struggling to power their fossil-fuel-fed tractors and work their farms. Some large farms wind up spending between $2000 and $3000 a day on fuel alone. And all of this isn’t to mention the environmental damage done by carbon emissions.
An electric tractor for Solectrac would cost farmers more up front, but over a year would more or less break even with what a fossil-fuel tractor would cost in gas. One study from Cadeo Group, a clean-energy consulting firm based in Portland, Oregon actually found that an electric tractor would save up to $3000 a year.
While the farming industry is a long way off from getting rid of gas tractors entirely, many have taken notice of the market opportunity. Monarch raised $60 million from investors, and Solectrac was recently bought by Ideanomics, a publicly traded electric vehicle firm.
For electric tractors to take off, though, first the farmers need to be won over. Many of them believe that the electric infrastructure isn’t there yet and understandably worry about their tractors breaking down miles into a farm without a power source. Robert Wallace understands this hesitance and is expanding his program to offer a wider range of equipment to a wider range of farmers, showing that the market and the farms are going green.