Monarch's Electric, Autonomous Tractor Technology Attracts Global Investments

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
Monarch Tractor is the world's first electric, driver-optional, smart tractor manufacturer. The tractor looks similar to a compact tractor; it is narrower than a compact, but slightly longer. (DTN image courtesy Monarch Tractor)

Monarch Tractor, the world's first electric, driver-optional, smart tractor manufacturer, announced today the closing of its $20 million Series A funding round. The round includes global industrial equipment manufacturers and automotive suppliers.

The investment round is led by Musashi Seimitsu Industry Co., Ltd., a Japan-based global auto parts company; CNH Industrial (Case IH, New Holland Agriculture and Steyr); and VST Tillers Tractors Ltd., an Indian tractor and implement company. The round also includes At One Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture capital fund, and MUUS, a sustainability-focused private capital group.

"The food ecosystem is ready for transformation with farmers demanding sustainable tools that can increase efficiency and farm profitability," said Praveen Penmetsa, CEO of Monarch Tractor. "The strategic investments by global leaders like CNH Industrial validate the Monarch Tractor platform's broad application globally and beyond farm products. We are excited to have a group of investors who share a commitment to supporting the sustainable development of agriculture and positive global impact on farm economics and sustainability."

A Monarch tractor looks similar to a compact tractor; however, it is narrower than a compact, and 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. Its 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.

The 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, 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 can be programmed to cease spraying operations if local wind conditions exceed either preplanned or regulatory parameters.

"What makes Monarch Tractor unique is that you are answering the three big challenges farmers have," said Penmetsa. "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."

A large battery with 10 hours or more of operating time powers Monarch tractors. 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, the company said.

"Monarch is pioneering tractor technology that incorporates electrification, autonomous use, and data management. These are three of the key pillars supporting sustainability, productivity, and profitability, both for CNH Industrial and for our farming customers," said Scott Wine, CEO, CNH Industrial.

"Electrification is gaining momentum across the heavy equipment sector," CNH told DTN/Progressive Farmer in a request for information. 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 said.

Monarch launched its tractor in December 2020. The company has received acclaim for it. It claimed a 2021 BIG Innovation Award, 2020 Tractor of the Year in the AgTech Breakthrough Awards, and was named one of World Ag Expo's Top 10 Best New Products. It was also recognized in Fast Company's "Best World-Changing Ideas: North America, Energy and Food."

Dennis Muilenburg, investor and advisor at Monarch Tractor, said, "It's an exciting time for ag tech with the powerful convergence of traditional farming and cutting-edge technology." He added, "With the support of the investment community, Monarch Tractor is poised to achieve its mission to empower today's farmers and enable the transition to more productive, precise and sustainable farming practices."

Compact utility tractors are a common platform in the world. They represent an annual market of 1.4 to 1.5 million units. 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.

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

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Dan Miller