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Making Organic, Regenerative Agriculture Economically Superior to Conventional Agricultural Practices

Our vision is to make organic, regenerative agriculture economically superior to conventional agricultural practices, and provide consumers

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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Monarch Tractor

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Monarch Challenge, Motivo

Website of Legally Registered Entity

monarchtractor.com

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Fremont, CA

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States of America

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

San Francisco Bay Area

What country is your selected Place located in?

United States of America

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Our pilot vision area is the San Francisco Bay Area, which we happen to live in. The region encompasses a blend of technological innovation, agricultural history, sustainability focus and "foodie" culture. CEO Praveen Penmetsa is based in Fremont, our main office hub and a hub of technological innovation. President Mark Schwager is growing his family in the city of San Francisco, a city that values green initiatives and has a diverse food culture. Chief Farming Officer Carlo Mondavi, grew up in agriculture as a fourth-generation winegrower in Napa Valley. 

Prior to Monarch’s formation, Mondavi’s experience as an expert viticulturist in Napa led him to create the Monarch Challenge. The Monarch Challenge was birthed from a desire to change the damaging practices seen in conventional farming practices. The name 'The Monarch Challenge' came from the fact that since Roundup's introduction into the market in 1974, the Monarch butterfly population has declined by 90% and is under threat of extinction. The detrimental impact of these farming practices go beyond the Monarch to frogs, bees, other pollinators and human health.

This challenge highlights an issue that also is relatively easy to fix, the unneeded, overuse of herbicides. The overapplications of harmful herbicides to the land are bad for the environment, ruin the soil structure, is bad for human health, and end up in products, neighbor’s products, rivers, air space and backyards.The Monarch Challenge’s goal is to teach the community – from the weekend farmers to the big corporate farmers – what there is to gain from leaving Roundup and glyphosate and other herbicides behind. Napa and Sonoma can set an example that other wine regions and farming communities can follow to cost effectively outgrow herbicide usage. 

Monarch grew from this mission to create a shared vision, to make sustainable, and beyond organic farming practices more economically viable than conventional farming processes. 



Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The Bay Area is the area that surrounds the San Francisco and San Pablo estuaries in Northern California. This region is diverse in that it encompasses major cities like San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland, along with smaller urban and rural areas like Napa, Livermore and others. The Bay Area is an area of highs and lows, with the bay sitting at sea level that is surrounded by an expanse of hills. This combination brings the San Francisco Fog - lovingly nicknamed “Karl”. This trapped moisture means the landscape of each region of the Bay Area is drastically different. This diverse landscape is also mimicked in the economic divide of the area. The Bay Area holds the second highest amount of Fortune 500 companies, while also having some of the highest rates of homelessness. 

Throughout this region, the climate supports a diverse mix of crops including: grapes, nursery crops, mushrooms, peppers, garlic, tomatoes, lettuce, and corn. The people in this region are proud of the local food system, cultural diversity and social awareness. The hope is to continue efforts to move towards an environmentally friendly and socially equitable region.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

18000

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

7700000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Environment: The environmental impacts of climate change are being felt by our region in the form of wildfires, droughts and increased resource scarcity. In the future this problem will continue to amplify unless we change our pattern. We need a solution that can reduce and react to climate change. 

Diets: Diets in our region are showing increasing scrutiny, not only by type, but also by source. People are increasingly interested in food sources and farming practices, but often do not have a simple reliable way to receive the information. We need a way to easily digest farm data for consumers to be able to make more informed purchasing decisions, and for farmers to see the cost benefit of healthier farming practices.

Economics: Farming in our area is plagued by labor shortages, especially skilled labor. As the demand grows and production areas shrink this problem will multiply. Currently, many farmers farm management practices are tied to conventional farming practices due to cost, both resource and labor costs. We need a system that will allow regenerative farming to be economically superior to conventional farming practices.

Technology: In our region, agtech has been booming. There are many advances being created, but 90% are use-case specific. Each of these new innovations come at a high cost to the farmer. We need a holistic solution rather than costly swappable pieces.

Culture & Policy: Our region is a leader in environmental policy, but throughout the farming industry there is an issue of safety. Farming is one of the deadliest professions in America, we need a way to keep our farmers safe from workplace accidents and harmful chemicals.



Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Monarch is a fully electric smart tractor platform, it has best in class plow, till, and hauling capabilities with driver optional and data analytics functions. The Monarch tractor platform combines mechanization, automation, and data analysis to enhance farmer’s existing operations, alleviate labor shortages, and maximize yields. 

First as a fully electric tractor the Monarch has the capability to reduce the equivalent emissions of 3,000,000 cars by 2024 or an annual reduction of 1.32 tons of greenhouse gasses. Data collection allows for precision input application which can result in a 15- 20% yield increase. This increase coupled with the driver optional operation allows for the application of more environmentally friendly farming practices at a fraction of the cost. The tractor also collects data that can be shared from farmer to farmer and shared with consumers, easing the education gap surrounding our food system.

Tractor accidents are the leading cause of on-farm deaths, accounting for about ⅓ of farm fatalities every year. Monarch driver optional, smart detection and anti-rollover control can drastically reduce this number. 

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

With the Monarch vision, you will be able to travel through our region and out to the fields without harmful emissions, sprays or runoff. Farms will be safer for the farmers that feed our community. Farmers will be able to afford the time to focus on the profitability of quality “green” farming practices. Higher yields will mean higher food security, more efficient land use and more profitable farms. Consumers will be able to easily make educated decisions about the food and farmers they support. With the monarch platform implements, farmers and consumers will all be able to share information and analyze data points to continue positive growth to a more sustainable and equitable future.



Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

The Monarch platform will completely revolutionize farming operations, enabling the highest level of plant, crop and farm management at a fraction of today's farming costs. The Monarch Tractor is the most powerful tractor in its class. In addition to it’s best in class plow, till, and hauling capabilities, it can accomplish everything an equal class diesel tractor can - and more. 

The Monarch tackles labor shortages and economic challenges with driver assist and driver optional capabilities. After a single pass with an operator, the Monarch Tractor will remember and replicate the job when asked to. 

With climate change bringing stronger fires, floods and natural disasters to farms globally the Monarch Tractor can double as a power source during grid shut downs allowing farms to keep the lights on and farm working. With exportable power, Monarch can run an average household for 3 days and power electrical equipment when grid power is unavailable in remote areas and during disaster relief. In addition to the energy efficiency gains from the fully electric tractor platform, the Monarch Tractor’s advanced sensors also boost a farmer’s bottom line. The data collected during operations provides insights into plant, crop and soil health, allowing the Farmer to apply resources precisely where they’re needed, saving the farmer product and money.

The Monarch Tractor doesn’t just use its full suite of cameras and sensors for it’s driver optional capabilities - it also collects and analyzes over 240GB of crop data every day it operates in the field. Sensors and imaging are processed to provide critical data points like yield estimates, current growth stages, and other plant/crop health metrics. Utilizing machine learning, the Monarch Tractor is able to digest this data and provide long term analysis of field health, improving accuracy the longer it runs. 

The Monarch was built to power the next generation of smart sprayers, weeders and other data-driven implements; enabling advanced controls, precision application, and detailed reporting. Plus, the Monarch Tractor has backwards compatibility with existing implements, giving farmers flexibility to upgrade their equipment when it makes sense for them. The Monarch even captures data while performing operations with traditional implements, making a farmer’s existing tools that much more effective.

The Monarch Tractor utilizes the latest hardware and software technology to provide driver assist features and has the ability to repeat tasks after training. This understanding of the tractor’s environment increases human safety: providing rollover risk alerts, eliminating human exposure to hazardous operations, and halting when people get too close to components in motion.

The data collected by the Monarch can be culled for farmers to simplify certification processes, reduce their burden and allow for a greater focus on quality. The Monarch vision would create a platform that allows farmers and customers to share information. Customers are able to take advantage of a full dashboard of information regarding how each item they buy was grown, harvested, transported, and more. This freedom of information will allow customers to truly vote with their dollar without being overwhelmed or disheartened by watered down labels. Farmers are able to focus on their product and let their farming practices do the marketing for them. 

As a fully electric tractor, the Monarch has the capability to enact a reduction of 1.32 tons of greenhouse gasses per year. This drastic cut is great for the environment, human health and also the bottom line. As a zero-emission tractor the Monarch could qualify for tax incentives through the state allowing for up to an 85% rebate on the purchase price. 



How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Colleague

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Team

Thank you so much for the Food Extension Initiative.

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