2020 has been a challenging year for the food and agriculture industries, with Covid-19 having impacted the entire food supply chain, from field to consumer.
Farmers today face numerous challenges; from labour shortages to safety concerns, the effects of climate change, government regulations and increased customer scrutiny for sustainability demands. Outside of the agriculture sector, which is one of the largest industries in the world, there is little discussion about how innovation can help address these problems and help farmers and organizations develop their dated business frameworks.
Introducing the revolutionary Monarch Tractor, which addresses the above issues by combining electrification, automation, machine learning, and data analysis into the world’s smartest, fully electric, driver-optional tractor.
Praveen Penmetsa is the co-founder and CEO of Monarch Tractors and boasts nearly two decades of hands-on experience in translating creative visions into products for startups to Fortune 50 companies alike.
“Our goal is to utilize 21st-century technology to empower farmers and generations of farmers to come” says Penmetsa, “We see the Monarch Tractor as a bridge between clean farming and farm economics by giving them a sustainable product that will save them costs and increase their yield.”
Penmetsa also serves as the founder and CEO of Motivo Engineering, a product-engineering firm based in California who announced the creation of the independently formed Monarch Tractor in December 2019. The seed of which was first planted with the Motivo patented HARVEST tractor, originally developed as an USAID funded project.
Penmetsa subsequently formed Monarch alongside Mark Schwager, an expert in operations leadership with previous experience at Tesla, Zoox, and Romeo Power, robotics whizz Zachary Ohohundro, and Carlo Mondavi, a fourth generation farmer and grandson of the legendary winemaker Robert Mondavi.
“As a fourth-generation farmer, I’ve seen first-hand the hazards that farming presents not just to workers, but to the environment as well,” explains Carlo Mondavi, Co-Founder and Chief Farming Officer, Monarch Tractor. “Monarch Tractor is moving farming toward a safer and sustainable future by eliminating harmful emissions, reducing the need for herbicides and keeping workers out of harm’s way with its driver-optional capabilities.”
With the right combination of scaling and agriculture experience, the team at Monarch set to making regenerative agriculture economically superior.
The Digital Revolution of Farming
The Monarch Tractor had to convince farmers to turn away from their trusty diesel tractors and empower them to go sustainable, whilst maintaining yield and delivering in an affordable package.
Unlike your standard diesel tractor, which produces roughly 14 times the CO2 emissions as the average car, the Monarch Tractor is 100% electric, has zero tailpipe emissions, and is just as powerful. This cuts over 60% of the farm’s expense on fuel and service whilst also addressing climate change.
“Monarch’s autonomous capabilities allow farmers to cut the costs of the extra passes, enabling farms to get rid of all herbicides and use natural non-synthetic pesticides, which ultimately creates a healthier environment,” says Penmetsa.
All the items you would expect from a conventional tractor are present but, beyond that, the Monarch Tractor can interact with people in an automated mode. You really have to see it to believe it.
The tractor also sports exportable power, remote viewing of tractor data and video, 4-wheel drive, and front loader compatibility.
“It allows farmers to get rid of hazmat suits, keeping farming healthy. The future of farming is brighter and brighter with these revolutionary advancements,” adds Penmetsa.
Packed with safety features including artificial intelligence, roll and collision prevention, 360° cameras, and a full sensor suite, the Monarch is designed to keep operations running smoothly and employees safe, day or night.
The smart technology built into the tractor platform combines mechanization, automation, machine learning, and data analysis to enhance farmer’s existing operations, increase labour productivity, and maximize yields which is especially impressive as Monarch Tractors can operate with or without a driver.
Farmers own 100% of the data collected by their vehicle, providing insights into plant, crop, and soil health. Farmers can apply resources precisely where they are needed, saving product and money.
With the agriculture sector so set in its ways, Penmesta and his team had some steep obstacles to overcome.
“Monarch Tractor’s biggest challenge has been in providing the best ROI for farmers– especially farmers with razor thin margins. Monarch Tractor is a combination of the highest value technology that farmers absolutely see value in,” explains Penmesta.
The Monarch Tractor can accomplish everything a traditional diesel tractor can and more. All this power is packed into a small footprint resulting in best in class plow, till, and hauling capabilities.
Another challenge for the team was gaining the trust of the farming and agriculture community.
Development of electric alternatives for the agriculture sector has been slow, and is far behind the zero-emission innovations sweeping the automotive sector.
“While most conventional farmers would like to adopt sustainable practices, traditionally it comes at a higher cost that they aren’t willing or able to take,” says Penmesta.
Monarch’s success is partially down to its push on education. Innovation in the agriculture sector has been held back due to various reasons including technology limits, lack of investment into innovation, affordability, and lack of knowledge, but the Monarch Tractor is paving the way forward.
“Monarch Tractor not only bridges the economic gap between organic and conventional farming, but also solves the carbon footprint associated with organic farming by being all electric,” he adds.
Based on their location in Livermore, California, Monarch Tractor’s initial customers are in close proximity to the world-famous Napa and Sonoma wine regions.
“We are now branching out to the fruits and orchards regions on the west coast from Oregon down to California. This allows us to provide the proper support with the initial testing and installment as customers use the tractor in tough fruit and vegetable growing terrains of America.”
The Monarch 2020 Partnership Series has already sold out, securing several hundred working farms as preliminary customers, including world-renowned wineries such as Wente Vineyards.
“2021 will be a big year for us as we begin our rollout of Monarch Tractors to customers across the world,” says Penmesta, “we will also continue to innovate our technology to meet the sustainability, safety, and economic needs of today’s farmers and be a game changer for farm economics and sustainability.”
There is no doubt that Monarch is delivering meaningful change to the future of farming and laying the groundwork for a new generation of smart technology in the sector.