It’s been dubbed Amazon’s secret conference. Each year, Amazon Founder and Executive Chair, Jeff Bezos, invites an exclusive gathering of leading voices across machine-learning, automation, robotics, and space (aka MARS). For MARS 2023, Bezos invited Monarch CEO and Co-Founder, Praveen Penmetsa, to take center stage with his powerful, presentation, “Automating the Most Important Vehicle in the World.”
Speaking to a prestigious audience of tech disruptors and innovators, Penmetsa’s presentation addressed the importance of automating and digitizing the world’s most important vehicle: the tractor. After pointing out that the small tractor is the most used farm device on the planet, he introduced Monarch’s MK-V as the type of tractor that will revolutionize farming. The electric, driver-optional, and connected MK-V is a sub-100HP small tractor whose innovations bridge the gap between solving problems farmers face right now to safeguarding a farm’s health and profitability for the future. What followed was a rare, inside look at the development of Monarch’s technology.
Optimizing What Matters
“Farmers have tried to optimize their operations through larger equipment and more chemicals, leading to negative outcomes,” Penmetsa says.
These problematic outcomes include greater economic pressures, soil erosion, human health issues, ecosystem destruction, and proliferation of cheap, unhealthy foods. Transformation comes from reimagining the small tractor. Penmetsa got intimate with the creative thought process and ag technology behind the MK-V and how it solves farmers’ challenges. For Monarch, elevating the tractor’s performance, familiarity, usefulness, and safety with farmer-first solutions were paramount.
“What started off as a fairly simple challenge was not that simple anymore,” Penmetsa recalls. "Every farmer should be able to use this with no training, no mapping, and less than an hour of setup. It’s so intuitive, that they can see value from day one.”
The MK-V also tackles unreliable power grids and blackouts. Penmetsa explains, “It’s a huge challenge for energy resilience and energy capacity for our rural grids and that’s the case all over the world. Our tractor is going to break that log jam by providing energy storage at the edge and capacity at the edge of our grids.”
On the digital side, because the tractor is involved in operations that stretch from spring preparations to fall harvest, it becomes the ideal platform to tell a farmer what’s happening on the farm based on the data it collects. Farmers get valuable ag intelligence without having to manually enter any information.
In addition to energy and data, Monarch’s impact extends to safety. In a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) study, research revealed that from 2015 to 2019 more than 62,000 people were treated in emergency room departments from nonfatal, agricultural-related injuries. Nearly a third were youths. Fatalities, meanwhile, are seven times higher than the national average of other industries, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“We’ve become so decoupled from the farm ecosystem, that we don’t realize that agriculture is one of the most dangerous professions on the planet,” Penmetsa says.
Giving Farming a Future
When developing electric tractor prototypes, Penmetsa asked a farmer what he would do with all the savings he would incur with an electric tractor. The farmer replied that he would send his children to college because “there is no future in farming.” Penmetsa recognized how critical it was to change that reality.
As the catalyst for that change, the MK-V drives farm operations savings by helping farmers gain labor efficiencies and a safer working environment. Energy savings are realized through emission reductions, transportable power, and with the addition of renewable energy sources, farmers can add energy independence to their gains. Collectively, these deliverables are changing a statement of “there is no future in farming,” to “there is a future, it’s profitable and sustainable from the farm community all the way to that of the planet.”
Mulhollum, Jeff. (2021, June 10) Study Reveals Agriculture-Related Injuries More Numerous than Previously Known. Penn State Research.
Penn State: https://www.psu.edu/news/research/story/study-reveals-agriculture-related-injuries-more-numerous-previously-known/