There is an intersection of agriculture, energy, finance, and technology that will make all the difference in the economy of farmers, and the ecology of our small planet. Gridtractor set its sites on electrifying the world’s fleet of tractors and diesel-powered farm equipment a decade ago. There is now an opportunity to get this transformation rolling.
I recently spoke with David Meyers, CEO of Gridtractor, about this. He has a message (good advice) for all the big manufacturers, the John Deeres of the world: “Don’t repeat the mistakes of the big auto companies. If you had said to GM 10 years ago, when Tesla was playing around, that last week’s market value was coming, they would have rolled on the floor laughing.” (This is referring to Tesla doing what it just did — reaching a trillion dollar market cap). Don’t let small electric tractor manufacturers become the next Tesla when you have the chance now to transform. That’s the message. At the same time, to those smaller companies, such as Monarch Tractor, keep the momentum up.
California is the laboratory for many technological market structures. Yet, farmers everywhere, who are the most independent of folks, will resonate profoundly with the sheer independence of producing their own fuel and saving up to 75% in fuel costs. As infrastructure is a core issue with electric vehicles of all kinds, the big farms are already ahead, because they are pumping water for irrigation. They can set up their timers to use that power capacity for EVs — now is recharging time, now is irrigation time. There it is, all ready to make use of.
Meyers said they love working with all the manufacturers, but he spoke about getting the big manufacturers involved. They can help with the finances and help to develop the missing pieces.
David pointed out that in places such as Africa, electrifying family farms and groups of family farms is ideal for development in terms of both profits and ecology.
I’ve never worked on a large agricultural farm. On the small organic farm I did work on, we had one tractor, a dinosaur. Although we did all the seeding and weeding ourselves, we had large cover crops off season. Someone had to till those under. As soon as the ICE tractor fired up, the bees working beside me and I scurried, or literally flew off that part of the land. I wondered how the crystals placed strategically and protectively in the field were going to stop those bloody emissions.
None of us were unaware of the risks of gas and oil. On any farm, but especially large farms, replacing ICE tractors with electric ones can help greatly to cut climate-changing emissions and air pollution.
Electrifying one medium-sized tractor in California reduces carbon emissions as much as replacing 45 gas cars with EVs, according to Gridtractor.
A press release from Gridtractor, which is a partial subsidiary of Polaris Energy Services, notes that the company’s first customer is Terranova Ranch, which is intent on making more strides in sustainably protecting the planet.
California agriculture provides food for a most of the country. Gridtractor shares that California farmers have funding opportunities to help offset electrification costs.
“For example, the San Joaquin Air Resources Board’s Agricultural Tractor Replacement Program provides incentive funds for the replacement of in-use, off-road mobile equipment that are engaged in agricultural operations as defined by the California Air Resources Board. In addition, Polaris was recently awarded a $2.9 million grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC) to roll out its automation technology that manages agricultural energy resources to reduce net peak load on California’s grid.”
Gridtractor slipped out of stealth in recent weeks “to develop charging technology, fleet electrification, and energy management services for electric tractors and heavy farm equipment” across the country, starting in California.
Gridtractor will help farmers seamlessly integrate electric charging and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) tech into their operations to strengthen the power grid with its smart energy platform. In addition, the company estimates farms can save 55–75% on fuel costs by going electric, and up to 90% by supplying stored power to irrigation pumps and to the grid. To start off, Terranova Ranch “will utilize the Gridtractor Planning Model Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) to determine the best deployments for electric tractors and integration with existing electrical infrastructure at dozens of irrigation pump sites and solar arrays.”
“Working alongside Gridtractor towards a better environment is a win-win for both our customers and California’s agricultural industry, which produces at least one-third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts,” said Don Cameron, Vice President and General Manager of Terranova Ranch. “For over forty years, our team has paid special attention to sustainability and keeping our soil, water, and air quality as healthy as possible, which is critical to ensuring long-term crop viability and employee wellness. We are taking this one step further with our partnership with Gridtractor to reduce emissions and transform energy use at our ranch.”
Speaking with David Meyers, I found the company’s intrinsically vital and supportive work to be inspiring, and I think the ground is fertile for this solution. Farmers just need to be educated on the financial savings, regardless of any interest in ecological or climate sustainability.
“While observing the rapid acceleration in EV adoption, especially in the heavy-duty sector, we realized that agriculture is an underserved industry in electrification. And considering the emissions generated by one tractor, we believe it is critical to help farmers adopt this technology faster and more seamlessly,” said Meyers. “The longest pole in the tent for transportation electrification is building out the infrastructure to support a massive increase in demand on the grid, and with the vehicle-to-grid component of our solution, we can essentially turn an electric tractor into a giant battery. We estimate that on top of the field savings, farmers can save 15 percent for smart charging and Vehicle-to-Load/Vehicle-to-
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