I Thought I Knew Why They're Making Electric Tractors. I Didn't

LIVERMORE, Calif. – June 11, 2022 – Monarch Electric Tractor rolls up electrification, autonomy and connected data to improve farming and food, not tractors.

“While car makers struggle to create a world of electric, autonomous connected cars, a tractor company thinks such a revolution makes a lot more sense on the farm,” says CNET in an exclusive feature. Monarch Electric Tractor's vehicle applies those technologies to work that's more valuable and more frequent than that done by our cars, gathering data along the way that they believe will improve food. 

Watch the interview with CNET Editor Brian Cooley, and Monarch Tractor founding members Mark Schwager and Praveen Penmetsa.

"Ag for me made a lot more sense when I looked at the technology," said Monarch Tractor CEO Praveen Penmetsa. "Electric, automated and smart technologies really have a place in agriculture."

While the casual observer may focus on zero emissions and the lack of a driver needed for what Penmetsa calls "dull, dirty and dangerous" work. The big idea is sensing and data: Monarch hopes its tractor becomes a platform for apps and AI that use its visual data gathering and detailed process recording to create better harvests without having to add drone or satellite technology that isn't already on most farms. "The tractor sits at the center of almost every operation on the farm," said Penmetsa. "That makes it the logical platform to collect data."

It could also mean a farm employee moves from driving one tractor to potentially managing a handful of them, attaching implements, programming new behaviors and overseeing charging and hydraulic maintenance across a fleet. As with so many applications of robotics, it remains to be seen if this elevates the existing workforce to better employment or splits it between that and no employment.

While some robotic tractor companies dispense with a cab entirely, Monarch went to lengths to create a familiar one where the farmer will feel at home as they teach the tractor how to do their job. "We don't tell farmers how to farm," said Schwager, "we let farmers tell the tractor how to farm."


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