The World Ag Expo is one of the most important events of the year. This year, Monarch Tractor, a company specializing in autonomous electric tractors, showcased its latest innovations at the show. To present their product range, as well as their new digital interface, Monarch thought big with a booth that could host live demonstrations.
Since its launch in 2020, the Monarch MK-V electric tractor has generated a great deal of interest in the agricultural industry. Initially introduced as a prototype, the MK-V has quickly caught the attention of farmers and industry experts with its innovative technology and advanced environmental benefits. Since then, Monarch Tractor has worked hard to bring the tractor to market, and the good news is that the MK-V is no longer a prototype.
In late 2022, Monarch Tractor has made official the launch of the MK-V’s Founder Series, which offers early customers access to exclusive features and additional benefits. Concerning the number of machines already in operation, Carlo Mondavi, the head of farming operations told us that 50 plus machines were already in service with customers.
The Monarch MK-V is designed to be a true multi-purpose tool, capable of performing a variety of agricultural tasks. There are three models of the MK-V for different type of uses and farms.
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Each of these models is equipped with different components and accessories, such as 3-points Hitch, the hydraulic pump, the drawbars or the PTO allows that make it suitable for a wide variety of agricultural tasks. It can perform under vine cultivation, spraying, shredding, mowing, seeding…
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The Monarch MK-V can be compared to a Tesla car in the agricultural world. Like Tesla, Monarch Tractor has incorporated the latest technologies into its product, in terms of hardware but also software. As for example with the NVIDIA Jetson edge AI platform that provide the MK-V a driver-assist and driver-optional operations but also many other features essential to autonomy as safety and obstacle detection.
In addition, Monarch Tractor recently announced a partnership with Foxconn to produce the tractors and its batteries in high volumes, which should allow them to lower production costs and improve their distribution capacity. This collaboration is reminiscent of Tesla’s innovative production strategy, which has also worked with partners to produce its cars in large quantities while maintaining high quality.
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One of Monarch Tractor’s latest developments is the WingspanAI tool, a mobile app available on Android or iOS, that allows farmers to monitor and control their Monarch tractors remotely. The app offers a host of features, including farm job scheduling, tractor fleet management, real-time data access, soil mapping and alert management.
Growers can also use the app to track their tractor’s performance in terms of energy consumption, yield and efficiency. Monarch Tractor offers two different packages for its new platform, each with different features and pricing.
The first package is the “Connect” package listed at $ 199 per month, offers basic functionality, including tractor geolocation, real-time performance monitoring, real-time alerts, video access and driving assist mode.
On the other hand, to fully automate its MK-V, it is necessary to subscribe to the second package, the “Automate” package. For $ 699 per month, it offers advanced features for tractor fleet management, as well as farm job scheduling, geofenced zones, energy use and emissions management, and access to advance scouting and analytics. In addition, Monarch specifies that all the features of its “Automous” package are compliant with OSHA regulations on autonomous solutions.
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According to Carlo Mondavi, the MK-V and its technologies bring tree main benefits to the growers.
First, it increases productivity and profitability of farmers. Sensors and cameras into the tractor allow growers to monitor and optimize every farm task, from soil preparation to harvesting. Its autonomy will allow the farmer a wider range of use without having environmental repercussions.
In addition, the MK-V is an electric tractor. Compared to a thermic tractor, it reduces agriculture’s carbon footprint by using a clean energy source, reducing dependence on fossil fuels. Which means, growers can use it more without increasing its CO2 impact.
Finally, the Monarch MK-V contributes to the reduction of chemical use in agriculture. With its increased accuracy and efficiency, farmers can target and treat crops more precisely, minimizing the use of chemicals that are potentially harmful to the environment and human health.
During our interview, Carlo Mondavi admitted that the tractor could still improve on weight optimization. To improve soil compaction, we could imagine a tractor design optimization or a better distribution of the weights, or the use of specific and more adapted tires to minimize the impact of the tractor on the soil.
Then the electric capacity, even with the extra-large batteries, may be limited for the most intensive operations, which may require more careful planning of operations and more efficient management of charging times. Similarly, the charging network may be limited in some areas, which can make it difficult for farmers to use the tractor for longer shift.
Monarch Tractor has experienced high demand for its machines, resulting in delays in deliveries and order fulfillment. However, as with many start-ups, production capacity can be a challenge and this new partnership with Foxconn should solve this supply problem and give enough production capacity to Monarch to expand to new continents!