From its inception, Monarch Tractor has been dedicated to engineering tools that work today and for the farms of the future. In July 2023, at a showcase tech demo in Central Otago, New Zealand, the world’s first 100% electric, driver-optional smart tractor was deployed at the world’s first 100% electric, zero fossil fuel orchard. In that moment, the MK-V electric tractor became the keystone piece that brought the worlds of today and tomorrow together.
This milestone marked the hard work and shared ambitions for all stakeholders — Monarch Tractor, farmers, government officials, and supporters.
Monarch Takes Flight
When Mike Casey, Owner and Operator of Forest Lodge Orchard, a six-hectare (14.8 acres), high-density cherry orchard in New Zealand, approached Monarch Tractor to purchase an MK-V and have it shipped to the Southern Hemisphere, it took some convincing. Monarch’s priority is its U.S. customer base, but this opportunity to partner with Forest Lodge proved too valuable to pass.
For Monarch Tractor, sending a tractor to New Zealand solidified many exciting firsts. While MK-Vs are reporting to work in U.S. farms at the moment, Monarch’s goals have always been to deliver sustainable, profitable farming to farmers across the globe. New Zealand, as Monarch’s first international deployment, makes an ideal demonstration and testing ground. The demonstration in New Zealand expands Monarch’s potential to showcase what is possible in sustainable farming in an international market.
Why New Zealand?
Because New Zealand’s electricity grid is almost entirely powered by renewable energy, the MK-V provides an even more impactful emissions reduction than with a conventional energy grid. Agricultural commodities are New Zealand’s number one export. The country is filled with many large vineyards, orchards, and dairy farms — ag markets the MK-V was built to optimize. Moreover, having a working relationship with a farm in the Southern Hemisphere means access to year-round testing and development. For Monarch Tractor, it’s never winter!
We really believe the New Zealand ag market to be an excellent place for our technology to benefit farmers both from an economic-sustainability standpoint and an environmental-sustainability standpoint
– Mark Schwager, Monarch Tractor President and Co-founder
Additionally, there is a memorandum of understanding between New Zealand and California, Monarch Tractor’s home state. The two governments have aligned goals over climate and agriculture, and openly share ideas, strategies, and technology to advance both.
Bringing Innovation Together
Like Monarch Tractor, Casey is using electrification to make sustainable farming an economically superior practice. To advance his goal, he co-founded New Zealand Zero (NZ0), pronounced “N zed zero,” a coalition of certified producers practicing zero fossil fuel farming in which Forest Lodge Orchard is the first member. Everything on Forest Lodge Orchard, from frost-bite fans to irrigation to its utility terrain vehicles, is fully electric. What it lacked was a tractor. Monarch’s MK-V was the last piece of the puzzle to complete a fully, electrified farm.
We’ve never been part of a fully electric farm until New Zealand. We’ve envisioned it and now it’s real.
– Jake Winters, Head of Impact at Monarch Tractor.
Around 200 attendees showed up to witness the unveiling of the MK-V at Forest Lodge Orchard and watch the MK-V autonomy demo. It was a day charged with energy! The audience included sustainable-focused farmers, government officials, and organizational representatives along with members of the press. Schwager and Casey were speakers along with New Zealand’s Minister of Climate Change, James Shaw, and Minister of Agriculture, Damien O’Conner. The Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority (EECA) Group Manager for Transport, Richard Briggs, also spoke. EECA provided grant money to Forest Lodge Orchard to help purchase the MK-V in its effort to be “clean and clever with energy.”
The MK-V autonomy demo showcased various capabilities. It then went into the orchard, followed by attendees, to perform an Autodrive operation. From there, both Ministers test-drove the MK-V, proving just how simple the tractor is to operate.
Sparkling the Future
The great thing about electrification is that it works for everyone,” Casey says. “If you care about the climate, it reduces emissions, that’s great. If you care about your business, it reduces costs and that’s great. We talk about two different things that come together to produce the same result and that’s pretty cool.
– Mike Casey, Owner and Operator of Forest Lodge Orchard
Deployed on a fully electric farm like Forest Lodge Orchard, the MK-V is doing what it’s designed to do: optimize operations, elevate labor, and help bring the benefits of sustainability to the world.