Listen to this article
On December 1, 2022, the first production units of the Monarch Tractor MK-V rolled off the assembly line, marking a milestone in the growth of the company.
When it first launched publicly in 2020, the Monarch Tractor MK-V changed the agriculture industry with next-generation electric vehicle technology and the promise of a fully autonomous compact tractor form factor that was unique to the industry. The company deployed the first prototype tractors locally at Wente Vineyards in Livermore California. The Livermore region in California is home to a number of grape growers and wine producers, and this is where the company decided to set up its corporate headquarters.
“This is a momentous day for Monarch Tractor that has been years in the making,” said Praveen Penmetsa, co-founder & 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.”
Monarch Tractor has secured several strategic partnerships globally including CNH Industrial and V.S.T. Tillers Tractors, and recently signed a contract manufacturing agreement with Hon Hai Technology Group (“Foxconn”,) the world’s largest electronic manufacturer, to build the MK-V and its battery packs at the Foxconn Ohio facility. The first production units for the Constellation Brands contract, however, are coming off the Founder Series production line at its headquarters and manufacturing facility in Livermore, California.
The tractor platform immediately turned a lot of heads when it was launched in 2020. While larger form factor tractors by John Deere and others have had ADAS and driver support features for more than a decade, the Monarch Tractor MK-V was the first compact tractor to come to market with an all-electric drive train.
The company decided to go after the compact tractor form factor as this market is one of the largest market segments around the world, serving small to medium size operations in every growing region and crop opportunity.
On top of the all-electric drive train, the MK-V also offers full autonomy with a complete suite of vision cameras and other sensors that enable the tractor to navigate and avoid obstacles during operation. The company continues to upgrade and roll out new software features that enhance the capabilities for self-driving, perception and autonomy.
The tractors use six NVIDIA Jetson Xavier NX SOMs (system on modules) that help them 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. “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.
Key features of the MK-V include:
- Renewable Technology: The MK-V is electric and emits no pollution. It serves as a tractor, utility vehicle, and powerful electric generator in the field.
- Driver Optional: Monarch combines driver-assist and driver-optional hardware and software. The Monarch MK-V can execute pre-programmed operations without a driver, or an operator can leverage interactive automation features like Shadow mode to follow a worker.
- Unprecedented Safety: The MK-V is full of safety features like 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 & Sensing Suite: The MK-V collects and analyzes crop data every day. It can also process data from current and next-generation implements with sensors and imaging. This information can be used to make changes to the hardware in real-time, estimate long-term yields, figure out where the plant or crop is in its growth cycle, and get other information about its health.
- Smart Device Operation: MK-V users get alerts about the status of their tractors, detailed reports about their operations, and data collection, analysis, and storage for better 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.
“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. “As we build a leading global premium, fine wine and craft spirits portfolio, comprised of some of the world’s top vineyards including To Kalon (whose organic certification is expected in early 2023), we are focused on protecting and amplifying our resources while producing the highest quality wines and spirits in the world. Being the first to leverage the Founder Series MKV affords us an industry-first opportunity to do so, and we congratulate Monarch on this exciting Launch.”
In California, Monarch Tractor is championing the acceptance of fully autonomous tractors as an automation solution for California farmers, in light of the ban on autonomous tractors by CAL OSHA. The California agriculture market is one of the largest markets for specialty crops in the world, and is important to the success of the MK-V. Labor availability is one of the key market drivers for specialty crops as it requires a lot of manual labor for cultivation and harvesting.