LIVERMORE, Calif. – April 31, 2023 – For most Americans, getting the food you eat isn’t typically considered a risky activity. Unfortunately, the same cannot always be said for the farmers who grow that food. Farm safety is a serious issue. Every day, farmworkers face potential loss of life, debilitating injuries, and ancillary damage to crops, machinery, and livestock. Advancements in electrification and automation are setting a new standard for increased safety through high-tech farming.
Elevating Farm Safety
“The most dangerous place on the farm is the tractor seat,” says Monarch Chief Farming Officer and Co-founder, Carlo Mondavi.
Mondavi is deadly serious. A tractor is an essential piece of farming equipment, but historically, operating one has been a health hazard. Tractor operators are at a constant risk of becoming a statistic of one of the four most common tractor-related accidents — power take-off (PTO) entanglements, rollovers, collisions, and chemical exposure. But agricultural innovation is ushering in a new and safer era for tractor work. Here are some of the technological safeguards that are elevating farm safety and protecting farmers’ health, happiness, and livelihoods.
1. PTO Entanglements
With a rotation of nine revolutions per second at a recommended operating speed, a PTO shaft is a dangerous piece of farming equipment. Protruding parts can grab anything dangling within their reach such as long hair, shirt cuffs, drawstrings from hoodies or sweatpants, boot laces, or scarves, all with devastating results.
Safety shields are an effective precaution, but only work when an operator takes the time to use them properly. Tractor automation removes the risk of human error. By utilizing a camera above the hitch, the MK-V automatically stops the tractor and cuts off power to the PTO if an object or person comes in close contact with the rear of the tractor. Crisis adverted!
As high as 44% of farm accidents are due to tractor rollovers and are the leading cause of fatalities in the agriculture industry. These overturns result in approximately 130 deaths per year according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). High-tech farming can make a difference. Monarch’s Smart 4-wheel Drive and Hill Hold technology dramatically improves a tractor’s stability to prevent rollovers. In the event one does occur, the MK-V is also mounted with a lifesaving rollover protection structure, offering a critical protective zone around the operator.
Tractor operators are tasked with driving a complicated piece of farming equipment while controlling implements, navigating bi-directional operations and tight turns all under the clock. Add to this a poor night of sleep, stress, or any number of other distractions, and even the most experienced operators can be the source of costly collisions. With vision-based artificial intelligence (AI), tractors like the MK-V now have built-in safety guardrails that enable human and object detection. Known as “Safe Mode” this Monarch feature prevents tractor collisions that can damage expensive implements and valuable crops. Safe Mode also provides extra protection for livestock, the driver, and surrounding people who are all at risk of collision-related injuries.
4. Toxic Exposures
Herbicides, pesticides, and other harmful chemicals used during spray operations are hazardous to exposed tractor operators. Then there is the relentless exposure to diesel exhaust, which increases farmworkers’ risk of negative health effects ranging from eye and nose irritation, headaches and nausea, to respiratory disease and lung cancer. Fortunately, electric tractors are an accessible solution.
Director of Product Stewardship at the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), Jeff Jurgens, explains, “Agricultural use of autonomous equipment promotes reduction of worker exposure to a variety of hazards. The use of autonomous tractors can remove workers from environmental health and safety hazards...keeping workers healthier.”
High-tech farming is clean. Not only do Monarch’s driver-optional features allow operators to stay away from dangerous chemicals while controlling the tractor, precision data and automation allows the Monarch to be more strategic with applications which is better for the farm’s environment as well as operational and energy savings. And with a 100% electric tractor, operators are only exposed to fresh, farm air. No diesel fumes from the tractor . . . ever.
While incorporating automated safety features in cars has become a widespread practice, Monarch’s agricultural innovations are bringing these higher safety standards to tractor operators and farmworkers. High-tech farming is safer farming. It’s time to make these tractor-related injuries, illnesses, and accidents a relic of the past.