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Sonoma County electric tractor maker Solectrac inks national distribution deal

Coming to a farm near you — a global, New York-based alternative energy corporation is setting up a dealer network with Brim Tractor for its Santa Rosa-based Solectrac company, Ideanomics Inc. (Nasdaq: IDEX) announced April 4.

“It is important for us to make our electric tractors more accessible by onboarding reliable retail partners,” Solectrac CEO Mani Iyer said, pointing to Brim Tractor’s decades of experience as contributing to that goal.

Brim Tractor, which is a certified dealer based in Lynden, Wash., that primarily serves the Pacific Northwest with seven offices servicing an assortment of tractor inventory, will be pegged to help Solectrac at least double its sales by next year to 120 for electric tractors. Reached by phone, Brim Tractor owner Dan Brim declined to comment on the partnership.

First, officials with Ideanomics and Solectrac, which was acquired by Ideanomics in June, need to beef up the inventory. The brainchild of Northern California engineer and company founder Steve Heckeroth, Solectrac has expanded to a production facility at a new 36,000-square-foot facility on Earhart Road in Windsor. It’s almost four times the size of the original Sonoma County Regional Parkway location, now a research and development center.

“It’s becoming the dream I had,” Heckeroth told the Business Journal, while reflecting back at his days in a 2,000-square-foot tool shop in Mendocino County.

Heckeroth, a longtime climate activist, delved into zero emissions engines in the 1990s, before electric vehicles became fashionable. He once used Porsche Spyder replica kits to build electric sports cars that could cover a range of 100 miles. He started Solectrac on $900,000 of seed money and a Crowdfunding campaign less than two years ago.

Last June, Heckeroth, 73, took a chief innovation officer position with Solectrac through Ideanomics a company that invested $1.3 million twice before taking over the reins for $20 million. Overall, the Ideanomics corporation raked in $27 million for the 2021 third quarter from all its enterprises, company officials said.

Founded in 2004, Ideanomics, is a global electric vehicle company that focuses on driving the adoption of commercial electric vehicles. With operations in the United States, China, Ukraine, Malaysia and the United Kingdom, the company includes subsidiaries, including Solectrac, VIA Motors, Treeletrik, Wave and US Hybrid.

Solectrac carries zero-emissions tractors ranging in horsepower from 25 to 70. They primarily market the tractors to hobby farms and vineyards with models using lithium iron phosphate batteries powering for eight hours on a standard three-hour-plus charge. Their prices start at about $25,000 and range to at least double that. The goal is to sell at least 2,000 annually, ramping up from the average 60 tractors sold in a month. As of a year ago at this time, Heckeroth had sold 36 tractors since the company was founded in 2019.

For the everyday farmer, Heckeroth plans to design a more affordable version hoping to expand its market and the technology to smaller operators.

Solectrac mainly sells the tractors directly in North America, but the company has delivered to Norway. Ideanomics CEO Alf Poor told the Business Journal on April 4 that he has lofty goals for the company, notwithstanding building on “double-digit” increases in growth each year for Solectrac. He envisions a marketplace reaching the “billions” of dollars, especially as more governments impose mandates to combat climate change.

According to a 2018 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report, the agriculture sector accounts for 9.9% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

“This is a growth market. I see us expanding rapidly in the next few years,” the 25-year startup developer said, adding accessories and parts to the market mix a dealer network may help with.

Poor plans to establish between 25 to 30 dealer locations in prime agricultural markets, including Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma and the Dakotas, along with California and, eventually, Africa. Poor even hinted that his company may contribute to the rebuilding of Ukraine, once the Russian war ends. The company ran a software development operation in Ukraine.

“We’re watching the situation carefully,” Poor said.

Susan Wood covers law, cannabis, production, tech, energy, transportation, agriculture as well as banking and finance. For 27 years, Susan has worked for a variety of publications including the North County Times, Tahoe Daily Tribune and Lake Tahoe News. Reach her at 530-545-8662 or susan.wood@busjrnl.com.

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