Monarch Tractor today announced that the first tractors are coming off its Founder Series production line at its headquarters and factory in Livermore, Calif. The rollout comes less than two years since the company unveiled its MK-V tractor, which combines electrification, automation, and data analysis. It is intended to help farmers reduce their carbon footprint, improve field safety, streamline operations, and increase their bottom lines.
“This is a momentous day for Monarch Tractor that has been years in the making,” stated Praveen Penmetsa, co-founder and CEO of Monarch Tractor. “Our team has worked tirelessly and relentlessly with a mission to make farming more profitable and sustainable. We’re proud to see our commitment to technological innovation and sustainable solutions culminate in celebrating our first tractor off the production line, which, I might add, is powered by renewable energy.”
Founded in 2018, Zimeno Inc., which does business as Monarch Tractor, claimed that the Founder Series MK-V is “the world’s first fully electric, driver-optional, smart tractor.” The company said it is working to empower today's farmers and generations of farmers to come with environmentally sustainable, efficient, and economically viable systems.
Its founders include Penmetsa, an autonomy and mobility engineer; Mark Schwager, former Tesla Gigafactory chief, as president; Zachary Omohundro, a robotics Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University, as chief technology officer; and Carlo Mondavi, from the Napa Valley Mondavi winery family, as chief farming officer.
Founder Series MK-V features
Using a Monarch MK-V instead of a comparable diesel tractor can reduce emissions equivalent to removing 14 passenger vehicles from the road, according to Monarch Tractor. Considering nearly 25% of global emissions result from agriculture, the new tractor could help reduce emissions at scale in an industry that has been historically difficult to decarbonize, it added.
“With precision ag, autonomy, and AI, data will decrease the volume of chemicals used, which is good for the soil, good for the farmer from a profitability standpoint, and good for the consumer,” said Penmetsa.
The MK-V tractor is designed to help solve numerous challenges that farmers face today, including labor shortages, field safety concerns, increased customer scrutiny for sustainable practices, and government regulations, said Monarch Tractor.
The system can “act as the hub to enable smart implements—precision sprayers, harvesters and more—for computer vision applications to help automate farming,” said Penmetsa. Monarch Tractor listed the following features:
- Renewable technology: The MK-V is 100% electric and has zero tailpipe emissions. It also serves as a 3-in-1 electrification tool, operating as a tractor or utility vehicle during operation, as well as a powerful electric generator in the field.
- Driver-optional: Monarch includes the latest autonomous and robotics hardware and software, including the NVIDIA Jetson edge AI platform, to provide driver-assist and driver-optional operations. The Monarch MK-V can perform pre-programmed tasks without a driver, or an operator can use interactive automation features including Shadow mode to have the Monarch Tractor follow a worker on the job.
- Safety: The MK-V includes rollover and collision prevention, vision-based Power Take Off (PTO) safety, and 360° cameras to keep operations running smoothly and employees safe, day or night.
- Deep learning and sensing suite: The MK-V collects and analyzes crop data daily and can process data from current and next-generation implements equipped with sensors and imaging. This data can be used for real-time implement adjustments, long-term yield estimates, current growth stages and other plant/crop health metrics.
- Smart device operation: Through a smartphone or tablet, MK-V users receive tractor status alerts and detailed operations reports, as well as data collection, analysis, and storage for more efficient farm planning.
- Powerful: The Monarch electric drivetrain is capable of providing 40HP (30KW) of continuous power and short duration peak power up to 75HP (55KW) in a small footprint for multi-purpose usage.
NVIDIA helps power zero-emission tractor
Tapping into six Jetson Xavier NX SOMs (system on modules), the Founder Series MK-V tractors are “essentially roving robots packing AI supercomputing” capacity, said NVIDIA. Monarch uses Jetson to deliver tractors that can safely navigate fields using only cameras.
“This is important in agriculture environments because there may be no GPS signal,” said Penmetsa. “It’s also crucial for safety as the Monarch is intended for totally driverless operation.”
The Founder Series MK-V runs two 3D cameras and six standard cameras. With the six Jetson edge AI modules on board, it can run models for multiple farming tasks when paired with different implements. For sustainability, Monarch can tune the computer vision in its platform with transfer learning, said NVIDIA.
“The NVIDIA Jetson enables the MK-V to run low-latency, real-time AI applications while at the same time conserving energy for longer battery life and extended run time,” said Penmetsa.
“The marriage of NVIDIA accelerated computing with Jetson edge AI on our Monarch MK-V has helped our customers reduce the use of unneeded herbicides with our cutting-edge, zero-emission tractor – this revolutionary technology is helping our planet’s soil, waterways, health and biodiversity,” said Mondavi.
Monarch Tractor rolls out quickly
Launched to the public in 2020, Monarch Tractor rolled out its pilot series at Wente Vineyards in what it said was the first deployment of a fully electric, driver-optional, connected tractor to a commercial farm. The startup said it saved the vineyard more than $2,600 in annual expenses and $34,000 lb. of CO2e per tractor.
Monarch Tractor has raised more than $110 million to date, including a $61 million Series B round from investors including automotive parts maker Musashi Seimitsu Industry Co. in 2021. In addition, as a member of the NVIDIA Inception startup program, the company has secured several strategic partnerships globally including with CNH Industrial and V.S.T. Tillers Tractors.
It recently signed a contract manufacturing agreement with Hon Hai Technology Group, also known as global electronics manufacturer Foxconn, to build the MK-V and its battery packs in Ohio. Monarch Tractor said it expects manufacturing operations to begin at the Foxconn Mahoning Valley facility in 2023, while tractor research and development will continue in California.
The MK-V has received recognition including being awarded “Overall AgTech Solution of the Year” in the 2021 AgTech Breakthrough Awards, recognized as a CES 2022 Innovation Award Honoree, and named to the 2022 CNBC Disruptor 50 list.
Constellation Brands is first customer
Constellation Brands, a leading fine wine and craft spirits producer that claimed to be the largest beer importer in the U.S., has partnered with Monarch Tractor and purchased the first six Founder Series MK-V tractors.
“We are pleased to partner with Monarch Tractor as its first customer, accelerating our deep commitment to sustainability while supporting a business driving future-forward innovation in agriculture technology,” said Robert Hanson, president of Constellation Brands’ Wine & Spirits division.
“We are focused on protecting and amplifying our resources while producing the highest-quality wines and spirits in the world,” he added. “Being the first to leverage the Founder Series MK V affords us an industry-first opportunity to do so, and we congratulate Monarch on this exciting launch.”
Monarch said it plans to follow the delivery of MK-V tractors to Constellation Brands with additional customer shipments to family farms and other large multinational corporations.