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Monarch Tractor Plows A New Path In Electric Farm Equipment

The transition to electric vehicles doesn’t only include the cars, trucks, and buses you see on the road.

Electric tractors and other farm equipment occupy a small but growing space in the EV market amid a move by the agricultural sector to operate more efficiently and sustainably.

Recent research published on MarketWatch estimates that the electric tractor market will grow from about $710 million in 2019 to $856 million by 2030. In contrast, the global EV market was estimated at $246.7 billion in 2020 and is expected to exceed $1.3 trillion by 2028, according to Fortune Business Insights.

Among the companies looking to capture a bigger share of the ag EV market is Monarch Tractor, a fully electric, autonomous farm equipment maker. The company is headquartered in Livermore, California, close to the tech hub of Silicon Valley and the agricultural hubs of the Napa, Sonoma, and Central valleys.

Photo Courtesy Monarch Tractor 

Monarch calls itself a “farmer first design” manufacturer whose mission is to “enable clean, efficient, and economically viable solutions” for farmers. Its flagship product is the MK-V electric tractor, which can autonomously operate for more than 10 hours.

The MK-V combines electrification, automation, machine learning, and data analysis to enhance existing operations on the farm, increase labor productivity and safety, and maximize yields to cut overhead costs and emissions. Because the tractor has battery swap capabilities, it could operate around the clock if needed.

Photo Courtesy Monarch Tractor 

Monarch operates in a narrow niche of the EV market with few major players, meaning there’s a long runway to capture market share. The company is well-positioned to do so thanks to a recent grant from the California Energy Commission.

One aim of the $3 million grant, announced in early November 2022, is to demonstrate the ability of farm equipment batteries to keep electrical loads running during power outages. That’s become increasingly important because of more frequent wildfires.

The grant money will go to a Farm Electrification Consortium that includes Monarch and Gridtractor, Rhombus Energy Solutions, Current Ways, and Polaris Energy Services. Part of the consortium’s work will focus on developing and demonstrating technology that lets farmers use tractors to respond to conditions on the power grid. This will mainly involve charging and discharging batteries to supply irrigation pumps and other on-farm loads in response to sudden shifts in price and demand.

Photo Courtesy Monarch Tractor 

The consortium will also develop hardware, software, and communications technologies that link tractors and charging equipment to fleet operation centers and grid management systems. The idea is to reduce the amount of downtime on the farm in the event of a grid shutdown.

“With grid shutdowns, hardworking farmers lose significant time, resources, and money in a business where America’s growers already struggle to see the profits of their hard labor,” Monarch CEO and Co-Founder Praveen Penmetsa said in a press release. “Our tractor’s ability to provide exportable power and act as a mobile generator will help keep the lights on for California’s farms even when the grid is down.”

Penmetsa cofounded the company in 2017 along with Chief Technical Officer Zachary Omohundro, President Mark Schwager, and Chief Farming Officer Carlo Mondavi.

Despite its California roots, Monarch will move its electric farm equipment manufacturing operation to Lordstown, Ohio. The move was part of a contract Monarch signed in August with Foxconn (Hon Hai Technology Group), a Taiwan-based electronics manufacturer.

Photo Courtesy Monarch Tractor 

Commercial production of Monarch Tractor’s MK-V Series begins during O1 of 2023 at the 6.2 million-square-foot Ohio plant. 

“Production of our MK-V tractors at the world-class Foxconn facility ensures that our tractors will continue to be built here in the USA by a seasoned team of experts with an unparalleled commitment to quality and care,” Penmetsa said. “We are very proud to partner with Foxconn on this journey and deliver our tractors globally to accelerate a sustainable farming future.”


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