Future Farms Go Well
By Peter Fretty
Farming is a tough business rife with challenges. Labor shortages continue to grow in what could rightfully be called an exodus of manpow- er; in some countries, the average age for farmers is in the mid-60s. ;e use of chemicals and commodityfarming (o;en used as a means to maximize crop output)are rapidly falling out of favor as consumers thirst for organics, sustainability, and regenerative practices. Additionally,governmental regulations and compliance requirementsadd complexity.
Simply put, farmers are getting squeezed, and farming isalready a low margin business.
“It does not have to be this way,” says Praveen Penmetsa,CEO of Livermore, Calif.-based Monarch Tractor. Monarchenvisions farming as an economically pro;table career. “Wewant to prioritize farmer community health, and also sustainable farming practices. We see a future where farminghas the latest and greatest technology so that it can start toattract the best minds,” he says.
Monarch’s mission is to enable clean farming, andit starts with delivering a smart tractor that the averagefarmer can a;ord.
With broad experience in the automotive and aerospace
world, Penmetsa was surprised by the huge technology gap
existing in today’s compact tractor segment as well as the
emissions (a tractor puts out roughly 14 plus cars worth of
emissions). “If you look at where technology is in your car
today or the rest of your life and then look at the typical
tractor, the gap is huge,” he says. “At a time when we need to
increase food production around the world to support our
growing population, the technology gap creates an oppor-
tunity. ;at’s why Monarch is focused on transforming the
tractor and bringing it up to the current state of tech to serve
as a more meaningful tool for the future.”
Using a standard car charging port, the Monarch tractor
is all-electric, has driver optional capabilities, a compre-
hensive data layer, and it can interface with both existing
farm technologies while sporting ;exibility to
enable future technologies.
;e Monarch tractor is a 40 HP (70 HP peak)machine designed to provide much-neededfunctionality for all farmers—not just largecommodity operations.
“It is a game-changer capable of providingtwice the amount of torque of our competingdiesel tractors. When coupled with the driver-optional features and the data hub it can assistfarming operations in a sustainable manner.”
;e Monarch tractor has several ways toincorporate on-farm autonomy operations.
It uses the latest autonomous hardware andso;ware technology to provide driver-assist anddriver-optional operations. ;e tractor can perform pre-pro-grammed tasks without a driver or an operator can use interactive automation features including Gesture and Shadowmodes to have the tractor follow a worker on the job. It alsohas safety features such as 360-deg. video detection, where, ifan implement is working and somebody walks up to it, it canimmediately stop the implement.
;e Monarch also provides ;eld mapping to operate with-
in speci;ed ;elds, explains Penmetsa. “Farmers can create
mission plans for the tractor to follow from the dashboard.
However, the Monarch tractor is a no-compromise tractor.
While it has an incredible amount of technology that doesn’t
mean it needs to be harder to operate. We designed it with
a farmer ;rst mentality, so it can be driven just like a regu-
lar tractor, but also has an onboard service and operations
manual so the farmer’s team can easily operate, train, and
maintain the tractor.”
Making the most of its deep learning capabilities, the
tractor collects and analyzes over 240GB of crop data daily
as it operates in the ;eld. Sensors and imaging are processed
to provide critical data points that can be used for real-time
implement adjustments as well as long term yield estimates,
current growth stages, and other crop health metrics. Using
machine learning, Monarch accurately provides long-term
analysis of ;eld health—analysis that continues to improve
;e Monarch also acts as a generator. “Imagine a gener-
ator that comes to you in the middle of the ;eld because of
a combination of our automation features and the tractor’s
capability,” he says. “It also has storage capabilities allowing
you to move things around as needed.”
Penmetsa says Monarch is on track for its ;rst commer-
cial deliveries in the second half of 2021. And, with the goal
of making the farmer’s life a lot easier, Monarch already has
an array of new features queued up in its roadmap. As such,
the development team continues to work on exciting new
features to further cement the Monarch as a very connected,
smart tractor. “What that means is, while the tractor is built
for decades of use from a hardware perspective, on the so;-
ware side farmers will see continuous evolution.”
Fortunately, the compact tractor segment is a growing
segment—in the US market alone the segment has grown by
18%. “And this is without any real innovation in that market,”
he says. “It highlights how much more mechanization and
how many more tools are needed by farming communities.”
Surprisingly, the biggest obstacle is convincing farmers to
trust technology. “Historically, technology has been used to
create a roadblock for farmers, whether the technology is not
robust enough and fails out in the ;eld, or manufacturers use
technology to extract more money out of the farmer without
providing value,” he says. “When you do that in a razor-thin
margin business like farming, the bene;ts quickly dissipate.”
Penmetsa hopes to change that mindset by being veryopen. “We don’t look at things like maintenance and serviceas revenue generators for the business. We want to enablethe farmers to be able to customize and repair their equipment using their own capabilities,” he says.
Bottom Line: “We should all care about our food ecosystems and the farming communities. If there’s anythingthat COVID has taught us, it’s that food security is crucial.We need to be able to provide food security for the world’sgrowing population in a long-term sustainable way that isgood for the soil, good for the consumer, and pro;table forthe farmer. We have to ;nd that balance—and recognizethat farming touches all of us.”
Photo Credit: Monarch TractorPhoto Credit: Monarch Tractor