LIVERMORE, CA—Monarch Tractor has unveiled what it claims is “the world’s first fully electric, driver optional, smart tractor integrated on a single platform.” The 40-hp machine is designed for basic agricultural applications such as spraying orchards and vineyards. According to the company, it is 42 percent more efficient than traditional diesel tractors.
The compact machine features a low-torque electric motor that delivers 200 newton-meters (Nm) of torque compared to the 90 to 120 Nm of a diesel engine. It can operate with or without a driver. The tractor can perform preprogrammed tasks without a driver or an operator can use Monarch’s interactive automation features, including Gesture and Shadow modes, to have the tractor follow a worker on the job.
“Farmers today face numerous challenges, including labor shortages, effects of climate change, safety concerns, increased customer scrutiny for sustainability demands and government regulations,” says Praveen Penmetsa, CEO of Monarch Tractor. “[We address] these issues by combining electrification, automation, machine learning and data analysis to enhance farmer’s existing operations, increase labor productivity and safety, and maximize yields to cut overhead costs and emissions.
“[We are] ushering in the digital transformation of farming with unprecedented intelligence, technology and safety features,” claims Penmetsa. “We have assembled a world-class team of farmers, engineers and scientists to meet today’s farming demands and are empowering farmers by giving them intelligent tools to collect more predictive data to implement sustainable practices, better share their story and make more money.
“Traditional diesel tractors produce roughly 14 times the emissions as the average car,” Penmetsa points out. “[Our] tractor is 100 percent electric and has zero tailpipe emissions. It also serves as a 3-in-1 electrification tool operating not only as a tractor.” For instance, it can perform as a generator that enables farmers to operate drills, saws, welders and other electric tools in the field.
According to Penmetsa, the tractor can collect and analyze more than 240 gigabytes of crop data every day. It can work with farmers’ current implements, as well as the next generation of smart implements.
“Sensors and imaging are processed to provide critical data points that can be used for real-time implement adjustments, as well as long-term yield estimates, current growth stages and other plant-crop health metrics,” says Penmetsa. “Utilizing machine learning, [our tractor] is able to digest this data and provide long-term analysis of field health, improving accuracy the longer it runs.”
Monarch Tractor will be assembling its machines in Livermore, CA, with first shipments scheduled to begin this fall. “We have a different approach to manufacturing; we have a microfactory strategy,” claims Mark Schwager, president of Monarch Tractor. Schwager previously served as head of Tesla’s gigafactory project. He also led the operations planning team and built the business systems for Tesla's flagship factory in Fremont, CA.
“Hundreds of farmers have signed on to receive a Monarch Tractor and we look forward to delivering a new level of sustainability and efficiency to their existing farm operations,” adds Penmetsa.
The startup company has also attracted investors ranging from Dennis Muilenburg, the former CEO of Boeing, to Musashi Seimitsu Industry Co., a Japanese Tier One auto parts supplier that specializes in products such as ball joints, camshafts, differentials, transmission gears and suspension arms.