Monarch Tractor’s namesake is a butterfly. Forbes, however, is calling it a unicorn. Each year, the Forbes' Next Billion-Dollar Startups list, produced in partnership with TrueBridge Capital Partners, puts the spotlight on 25 startups that it believes will succeed in achieving a $1 billion valuation; a title known as “unicorn.” Monarch Tractor made the 2023 list. It’s an exciting honor! As of 2022, of the 175 companies that Forbes has selected, 116 have become unicorns, 22 were acquired, and 9 went public before hitting the mark.Why Monarch?
Senior editor of Forbes' Next Billion-Dollar Startups, Amy Feldman, spent the day with Monarch Tractor to understand the development of Monarch’s electric, smart, and autonomous tractor, the MK-V and the co-founders’ experience in starting the company. Discussions centered on key points that highlight Monarch’s development, current state of production and accomplishments, and outlook for the future that demonstrates staying power.
Diesel tractors are a major source of pollution in agriculture, and farmers have long struggled to hire enough workers. Monarch’s machines promise to solve both problems.
Amy Feldman, Forbes Senior Editor & Editor for Forbes’ Next-Billion Dollar Startups
Here are some of the biggest reasons Forbes thinks Monarch Tractor is the next big thing:
1. Growth and Scalability
Monarch is on track to deploy around 1,000 tractors by the end of the first year of production. Additionally, Monarch Tractor’s technology can be found in licensed tractors such as CNHi.
Scaling is occurring in two vital areas: markets and production. While Monarch started with vineyards, a logical and strategic customer pool for its home base in California, it’s currently expanding into blueberries, orchards, dairies, as well as less obvious markets, like airports and municipalities. To ramp up production and meet demand, Monarch has a manufacturing partnership with Foxconn defined by accomplishment. The two partners worked tirelessly to execute two starts of production in two consecutive quarters. In less than six months, since announcing the partnership with Foxconn, production is in full swing with tractors rolling off the line.
2. Staying Power and Resiliency
Monarch Tractor is focused on real life, farmer-first solutions that operate in a nascent and untapped market of AgTech — decarbonizing farm equipment in an industry that is a significant contributor of carbon emissions, driving farm profitability when 43% of U.S. farms are facing bankruptcy, improving tractor safety in an industry notorious for high accident and mortality rates, and developing practical solutions that allow electrification and autonomy to work in and benefit rural communities.
The Monarch Tractor solution is grounded in reality. The sub-100 HP tractor is the most common tractor found on any farm around the world and 90% of U.S. tractor sales are in this class. When you change this tractor in a way that provides meaningful solutions to farmers’ most pressing issues, Monarch has the potential for the most impact and reach with a zero emissions, autonomous tractor whose ROI appreciates with use.
Farmers are very savvy, and they will adopt new technologies if there is an ROI for them.
Praveen Penmetsa, Monarch Tractor CEO & Co-founder
3. Impactful and Relevant
Monarch Tractor has worked with farmers to identify and address their biggest challenges. Labor shortages, safety, profitability, scrutiny for sustainable demands, seasonal risks, extreme weather, government regulations, reliance on expensive inputs such as diesel and pesticides, and even reliable access to power among other obstacles all put farmers’ livelihoods at risk.
Feldman was struck by the universal issues farmers face across the world and shared the same refrain co-founders Zachary Omohundro, and Penmetsa heard as they talked to farmers in India and the United States, that of “there’s no future in farming.”
“There’s a global shortage of labor in farming, they’re struggling with profit margins and there’s increasing pressure on them for sustainability,” Penmetsa tells Feldman.
Eager for Change
In her comprehensive research on Monarch Tractor, Feldman sought feedback from customers such as Domenick Buck, director of support services at Coastal Vineyards, a vineyard management company. After watching a demonstration in early 2021, Buck signed on as an early customer. As of 2023 Coastal Vineyards operates 18 Monarch MK-V tractors for itself and clients.
There are lots of people who can’t afford to continue operating in California. We’re looking for ways to stay ahead.
Domenick Buck, Coastal Vineyards Director of Support Services
The MK-V is not just a product, but a catalyst for industry-level transformation for a better future for farming, our food systems, and the environment. It’s a platform with the potential to kickstart the digital energy transformation of farming. It’s a transformation in which farmers and consumers alike are hopeful and eager for success. When it comes to Monarch Tractor the mythical unicorn does not appear as a single-horned white horse, but as a 4-wheeled gray and teal tractor, quietly humming along doing real work for real farmers bringing real benefits for all.
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