More robots are coming to help harvest specialty crops. Monarch Tractor this week announced that it has completed a $61 million Series B fundraising round. The Livermore, Calif.-based company said it will use the financing to scale its sales, service, and manufacturing footprint. The startup also plans to expand its product offerings and launch international pilot test programs for regional market validation.
“Fruit and vegetable farmers have long been ignored in the electrification and automation movement, and that’s why the Monarch platform is built with them in mind,” stated Praveen Penmetsa, co-founder and CEO of Monarch Tractor. “Due to the ever-increasing labor challenges, sustainability concerns, and food traceability and scrutiny issues farmers face, we have experienced great demand for the unique solutions Monarch Tractor offers.”
Technologies converge in MK-V tractor
Zimeno Inc., which does business as Monarch Tractor, claimed to be the first company “to deliver a convergence of electrification, automation, and data analysis that empowers sustainable farming, increases efficiency and safety, and maximizes profitability for farmers.”
Monarch Tractor said its MK-V is “the world's first fully electric, driver-optional smart tractor. The company has worked with Hopville Farms and Oregon State University under a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The autonomous, electric technology will unlock the potential for specialty crop farmers to achieve both economic and sustainability goals, said Monarch. It said this has led to growing interest from farmers and increased support from the investment community, allowing the company to scale production and expand manufacturing space in preparation to meet global demand.
In addition, Monarch Tractor said its latest investment will enable it to expand its global footprint into South America, Europe, and Asia for pilot testing programs. The company builds its robotic tractors in California and has a sales and support office in Singapore.
Monarch Tractor investments aim for sustainability
Astanor Ventures, a sustainable food venture firm, led Monarch Tractor's Series B round. CNH Industrial, At One Ventures, and Trimble Ventures provided additional individual and independent contributions.
Monarch Tractor closed its $20 million Series A round in March, and began its first deployment at Wente Vineyards in April.
“Monarch is transforming what is arguably the most important vehicle on the planet: tractors,” said Hendrik Van Asbroeck, a partner at Astanor Ventures. “Tractors emit 14x more [carbon emissions] than a car, and have not seen the same wave of digital innovation as we have seen in the automobile industry. Beyond delivering an affordable, clean and autonomous solution, Monarch‘s tractors capture detailed on-farm data to enable the sustainable and efficient farms of the future.”
The global market for autonomous tractors could expand from 12,508 units in 2018 to 60,901 units by 2025 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.89%, estimated Markets and Markets.
Similarly, Mordor Intelligence forecast a CAGR of 25.4% between 2021 and 2026, mainly because of agricultural labor shortages. The market will grow from $1.5 billion in 2020 to $7.4 billion by 2028 at a CAGR of 22%, predicted Accuray Research LLP.
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