Automotive

Electric, autonomous Monarch Tractor is billed as the world's smartest

Electric, autonomous Monarch T...
The creators of the all-electric Monarch Tractor believe it is the smartest tractor in the world
The creators of the all-electric Monarch Tractor believe it is the smartest tractor in the world
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The creators of the all-electric Monarch Tractor believe it is the smartest tractor in the world
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The creators of the all-electric Monarch Tractor believe it is the smartest tractor in the world

When it comes to targets for autonomous machinery, those carrying out repetitive tasks on farmland are ripe for the picking. The newly introduced self-operating Monarch Tractor is designed to show how it’s done, being billed as the world’s smartest tractor, it also ditches diesel and uses an all-electric powertrain for zero tailpipe emissions.

Over the past decade or so, we've seen autonomous driving technologies start to filter into the agriculture scene. This includes baby steps such as the self-steering robotic tractor we looked at way back in 2011 and, at the other end of the spectrum, audacious electric tractors that do away with the driver cabin entirely.

The Monarch Tractor still has space aboard for a driver, but carries the technology needed to either assist the driver or simply operate on its own. With 360-degree cameras, a suite of sensors and autonomous navigation software, the Monarch Tractor can be be made to carry out pre-programmed tasks without a person onboard. Otherwise, operators can control the tractor through gestures from the ground, or have it follow them as they carry out tasks through “Shadow” mode.

Using deep learning software, the Monarch Tractor is also designed to learn as it goes. This means it can use its sensors and imaging equipment to gather and analyze as much as 240 GB of data every day to assist with things like crop yield estimates and long-term analysis of crop health, becoming more accurate the longer it runs.

On the specification side of things, the Monarch Tractor is powered by a 70-hp electric powertrain that offers over 10 hours of operation time, and takes four to five hours to recharge via a 220-V outlet. It also has built-in obstacle avoidance and roll prevention to prevent accidents in the field. It comes with a 3-point hitch and boasts a lifting capacity of 2,200 lb (998 kg), with 4-wheel drive available as an option.

“As a fourth-generation farmer, I’ve seen firsthand the hazards that farming presents not just to workers, but to the environment as well,” says Carlo Mondavi, chief farming officer, Monarch Tractor. “Monarch Tractor is moving farming toward a safer and sustainable future by eliminating harmful emissions, reducing the need for herbicides and keeping workers out of harm’s way with its driver-optional capabilities.”

The company has opened up reservations for the Monarch Tractor for a deposit of US$500, and says hundreds of farmers have already signed on to receive one when shipping kicks off in the Fall (US) of 2021. The starting price is $50,000.

The video below provides a look at the tractor in action.

Monarch I Launch Video 2020

Source: Monarch Tractor

5 comments
5 comments
Bob809
Well, about time. I wish Monarch Tractors all the best for their future, and for the people that use them. Just hope it doesn't lead to people losing their jobs.
Nobody
How do you keep them from getting stuck in the mud??? They will likely be very heavy machines that will leave ruts where you don't want them.
Daishi
@Nobody combustion vehicles usually have one motor and struggle to deal with situations with limited traction due to the nature of how open differentials tend to place power to the wheel with the least traction (the one spinning or in the air) so they have to resort to locking out differentials or limited slip systems. Electric vehicles benefit from the ability to have multiple motors so they can adjust power to individual wheels electronically based on detecting traction or lack of it. I don't know the details of the Monarch drive system beyond knowing that they offer optional 4 wheel drive but I do know that simply being electric doesn't mean it can't tackle situations with limited traction. When done correctly electric vehicles can be extremely capable with limited traction.
ljaques
OK, cool tractor. But their marketing is hinky. "From an emissions standpoint, our tractor is 45% more efficient than a diesel tractor." I dare you to find anyone who has ever asked for that weird data point before. They say it will help you use less pesticide (but don't say how) and then proceed to show the tractor spraying a vineyard for a third of the video. I hope they clean up the hype and do well in business. It will definitely cause people to lose jobs, but that type of person could easily be retrained to work on the tractors. @Nobody, these are smaller, lighter tractors, so they'd be less likely to get stuck or rut the roads.
ReservoirPup
The name entails it is destined for those that don't crave democracy anymore, at least in the name.