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CNH Invests in Monarch's Electric, Autonomous Tractor Technology

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
CNH and Monarch Tractor have teamed up on a technology play that will soon bring electric tractors to production agriculture. Shown here is a Monarch tractor. (Photo courtesy of Monarch Tractor)

CNH Industrial announced this week that it completed a minority investment in Monarch Tractor, a U.S.-based agricultural technology company with plans to place on farms this year its initial electric-powered and autonomous-capable compact utility tractors.

Technology represented by the Monarch Tractor will benefit the entire CNH Industrial agricultural segment and will be made available to CNH Industrial's portfolio of agricultural brands, CNH told DTN/Progressive Farmer. The Monarch technology is currently in the prototype phase, and fast-paced development is ongoing to ready this platform for commercialization, CNH added.

"We are incredibly excited to work with Monarch to develop and deploy their groundbreaking technology ecosystem," said Scott Wine, CEO of CNH Industrial. "This partnership underscores our commitment to rapidly improving our alternative propulsion and precision farming portfolio, while extending our world-leading sustainability credentials."

"What makes Monarch Tractor unique is that you are answering the three big challenges farmers have," said Praveen Penmetsa, co-founder and CEO of Monarch Tractor. "Farmers have labor shortages around the globe. Farmers are under tremendous pressure from their buyers to reduce emissions and provide more sustainability data (to their buyers). Farmers are also working with razor-thin margins."

Penmetsa added, "(This partnership) amplifies the technology we are bringing to the table. Having the CNH footprint is a huge validation. Having their support on the tractor side and the farmer side is also huge."

Monarch demonstrates an innovative and fresh approach to an integrated electrification, autonomy and technology ecosystem, CNH explained to DTN/Progressive Farmer. In 2020, the company introduced the world's first fully electric, driver-optional, smart tractor integrated on a single platform. "CNH Industrial will benefit from the expertise of working with one of the leading players in the integration of both fully electric tractor powertrains with autonomous capabilities -- paired with a comprehensive agronomic and machine data management platform to deliver a complete technology ecosystem," the company said.

"Electrification is gaining momentum across the heavy equipment sector," CNH told DTN/Progressive Farmer. Key benefits are reduced CO2 emissions, better controllability, instantaneous high torque, noise reduction and operator ease. "When used with renewable energy sources, it is the only technology with the potential to be zero-carbon from well-to-wheel and also carbon-neutral from tank-to-wheel."

CNH is interested, too, in autonomous operations. It has produced its own autonomous concepts for on- and off-road applications. "We will see strategic actions to incorporate more autonomy into daily farming operations as well as robotic and drone technology. Growers are often faced with the challenge of time, operational windows, and a dwindling labor force. To maximize output, autonomy will become an integral part of their operation," the company said.

The Monarch tractor acts essentially as a hub in the field for data collection (analyzing 240 gigabytes of crop data every day it operates), for observation and even as a local source of remote electrical power. It can be a sprayer, a cultivator, even a drone for recharging other units, while uploading information collected from field operations.

The Monarch can create alerts, provide actionable information, as well as give managers close insight into what is going on in a given field. For example, the Monarch incorporates a micro weather station that, among climatic conditions, monitors wind speed. The platform will cease spraying operations if local wind conditions exceed either preplanned or regulatory parameters.

The CNH investment adds new momentum to Penmetsa's vision. "We've always been of the belief that agriculture and farming globally is very much an ecosystem play," he said. "We want to work with partners. CNH Industrial and their brands in agriculture have the same mission as us and the same beliefs when it comes to sustainability, when it comes to farmer profitability and farmer interests."

Monarch Tractor eyes a big market for compact tractors, with 1.4 million to 1.5 million units sold annually. "We plan to go everywhere a compact tractor goes," Penmetsa said.

Compact utility tractors are the most common platform in the world. It is a fast-growing segment in the United States, where compact units are typically used more than 100 days per year. Monarch believes its first sales will be in California and other western U.S. markets. But it is also seeing interest from Norway, New Zealand, Eastern Europe and Asia. "Honestly, the demand was pleasantly surprising after out launch," Penmetsa said.

The Monarch looks like a compact tractor, narrower than a compact, but slightly longer. Its electric drivetrain can provide 40 horsepower (30 kilowatts) of continuous power and short-duration peak power up to 70 hp (55 KW). The PTO and three-point hitch are comparable to a diesel tractor. It's hydraulic capacity equals or exceeds conventionally powered units of the same size. Because it is electric, the Monarch has two times as much torque as comparable units.

A large battery with 10 hours or more of operating time powers the Monarch. Under high workloads, the battery is designed to give owners four to five hours of operation. The battery system lasts 10 years, according to Monarch. A battery recharge requires up to five hours. To manage charging time, Monarch sells an optional swappable battery pack. The swap can be completed by one person in 10 minutes.

Monarch Tractor, headquartered in Livermore, California, was founded in 2019.

CNH's agricultural arm produces tractors and equipment under the Case IH, New Holland Agriculture and Steyr brands.

For an earlier DTN story about Monarch Tractor, go to:

https://www.dtnpf.com/….

For more information about Monarch Tractor, visit: www.monarchtractor.com.

Dan Miller can be reached at: www.dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @DMillerPF

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