Fully Electric Smart Tractor

New Technology - Fully Electric Smart Tractor

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
Monarch Tractor collects and analyzes 240GB of crop data every day it operates. Using machine learning, the Monarch is able to provide long-term analysis of field health, improving its accuracy the longer it runs. (Progressive Farmer image provided by Monarch Tractor)

Monarch Tractor, of Livermore, California, has introduced what the technology manufacturer says is the world's first fully electric, driver optional smart tractor integrated onto a single platform.

"What makes Monarch Tractor unique is that you are answering the three big challenges farmers have," says Praveen Penmetsa, co-founder and CEO of Monarch Tractor, in an interview with Progressive Farmer. "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."

The Monarch tractor addresses those issues by combining electrification, automation, machine learning and data analysis. This improves the farm manager's real-time vision of the farming operation by both collecting and analyzing visual and digitized data from the field, he continues. The Monarch features a 360-degree camera surveillance system and can process 240 gigabytes (GB) of crop data in every operating day.

The Monarch tractor acts essentially as a hub in the field for data collection, observation and even operating as a powerful generator a local source of electrical power. But, it is very much a tractor for conventional operations. "We don't want farmers to make compromises compared to their existing compact tractors," Penmetsa says.

Monarch began deploying electric tractors in 2017 and 2018 in California and India. As an organized company, Monarch Tractor was founded two years ago.

MOST COMMON PLATFORM

Penmetsa explains that Monarch is focusing on compact tractors because it is 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. "For these reasons, if we focus on the compact tractor, we can make the biggest difference in farm economics. We can save [farmers] not just on diesel cost but also labor costs," he says.

Dennis Muilenburg just joined Monarch's leadership team as an adviser and investor. The former Boeing executive and Caterpillar board member brings both aerospace experience and a farming background to support Monarch. "Growing up on a farm in Iowa, and after 35 years with the world's largest aerospace company in a broad range of leadership positions, Monarch is at the perfect intersection of my experience paths," he says.

Monarch was named 2020 Tractor of the Year in the AgTech Breakthrough Awards program. AgTech Breakthrough is a market intelligence organization that recognizes leading companies and products in every sector of agriculture technology.

CONVENTIONAL SPECS

The Monarch resembles a compact tractor, narrower than a compact but slightly longer. The hood features a uniquely designed, stamped cargo carrier to carry supplies, similar to an ATV. Its electric drivetrain is capable of providing 40 hp (30 kilowatts [kW]) of continuous power and short duration peak power up to 70 hp (55kW). The PTO (540 rpm) and three-point hitch -- 2,200 pounds of lift -- are comparable to a conventional diesel tractor of the same class. Because it is electric, the Monarch has two times as much torque as comparable units, Penmetsa says.

The Monarch is powered by a large battery with 10-plus hours of operating time. Under high workloads, the battery gives managers four to five hours of operation -- enough time to complete a field shift in California. The battery system comes with a 10-year warranty.

A battery recharge requires up to five hours. However, Monarch sells an optional swappable battery pack. The swap is performed by one person in 10 minutes. The location of the battery, over the front axle, is a design feature to improve stability.

The initial target markets for Monarch tractors are vineyards, fruit and nut orchards, and vegetable operations.

INTELLIGENCE PLATFORM

The tractor empowers "farmers by giving them intelligent tools to collect more predictive data to implement sustainable practices," Penmetsa says. The Monarch creates alerts, provides actionable information and gives managers close insight into what is going on in a given field.

For example, the Monarch incorporates a microweather station that, during climatic conditions, monitors wind speed. The platform will cease spraying operations if wind conditions around the Monarch exceed either preplanned or regulatory parameters for pesticide applications. When alerted to the stoppage by the Monarch, the remote manager can order it to continue or wait for conditions to change.

"[The Monarch tractor operates] on settings for your farm in real time, adjusting for your operation and still leaving you in control," says Penmetsa, who has previous experience in automation, robotics and artificial intelligence technologies in applications involving planting, cultivating and harvesting. "We can control hydraulics from the Cloud. We can control the PTO and hitch with software. This is the only tractor controlled by wire in the world. But, it is in a platform everyone can buy," Penmetsa says.

Monarch owners own the sensor and visual data collected from their units. However, Penmetsa wants to incentivize owners to share data. "We will incentivize them by putting them in touch with our partners, whether it is an ag input company, research company or their buyers to say if you are willing to share your data, they may be able to provide recommendations for the operation," he explains.

REPLICATES THE BEST

The Monarch is designed to replicate the best instincts and knowledge of an operation's best drivers. "You get your best tractor driver's settings across whole fields. And [that driver] is managing an entire fleet of these tractors. You manage the farm better, in less time because you can keep track of all the tractors and what operations they are doing."

Monarch tractors are assembled in Livermore, California. The base price is $50,000. The swappable battery pack is $15,000. A 4WD version is being field-tested, and Monarch plans to introduce additional platforms in both higher- and lower-horsepower ranges, as well as a tracked version.

Shipping of the compact unit is expected to begin in fall of 2021.

Specifications

> 100% electricâ??/â??zero emissions

> 3-in-1 tool: tractor, ATV, generator

> multiple automation modes

> safety features such as roll and collision prevention, vision-based PTO safety, 360-degree cameras

> smart tractor analyzes more than 240GB of crop data per day

> base price: $50,000

> swappable battery pack: $15,000

> available fall 2021

FOR MORE INFORMATION

> Monarch Tractor: www.monarchtractor.com

> Monarch I Launch: youtu.be/xcpi4vR-_44

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Dan Miller