Driver-optional EV tractor at the center of agtech boom, right next to Silicon Valley


Tesla’s market cap is about $500 billion, and it’s after about a 50% haircut since it was on track to top $1 trillion in 2021. Monarch Tractor, which recently introduced another major electric vehicle born in the state of California — a driver-optional, all-electric tractor — was valued at $271 million by investors in the private market.

But its CEO Praveen Penmetsa says there are many reasons to believe this is the next big thing in agtech, and that its home base is the perfect place for agriculture and technology to finally come together in a business model that will benefit farming. Solves some of the biggest challenges

“We’re turning Livermore into the center of agtech around the world,” Penmetsa told CNBC’s Julia Boorstin from a local vineyard near its headquarters in California when its name was pitched to CNBC. 2023 CNBC Disruptor 50 list on tuesday ranking number 49,

The startup has recently signed an agreement Nakshatra Brandmaking the liquor giant the first company to put its MK-V tractors, which rolled off the production line into the fields in December.

Farmers are grappling with higher labor costs and the carbon footprint of their diesel engines, while corporations face new sustainability costs. These are problems that Monarch Tractor can solve together.

“It’s more efficient on the labor side but reduces emissions and can power all the other equipment on the farm,” Penmetsa said.

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When the company’s co-founders — including a former Tesla Gigafactory chief — launched the company in 2018, the goal, Penmetsa said, was to build a tractor that every farmer in the world could eventually use. Its Chief Agricultural Officer, Carlo Mondavi, is a fourth-generation member of the famous vineyard family.

The company and its tractors are not yet on the cost curve. He said EV tractors are expensive — about $90,000 in the case of the first line of Monarch — but incentives in California and the cost of diesel have shortened the payback period for buyers in the state to two years.

Penmetsa says it will also pay for companies like Constellation Brands, which face increasing requirements to report on ESG goals and generate cost savings from more efficient operations, while also waging brand wars with consumers of the end product. Let’s win

None of this would have easily happened if the company didn’t have its Silicon Valley roots. The cameras on the tractor and AI technology – aided by an NVIDIA computing platform – can recognize what is happening on the tractor and in the surrounding area, and this allows Monarch to train the tractor “very quickly”, Penmetsa said. said, and then go out to new fields and new crops.

“Farms and farms are close, but we are also very close to Silicon Valley, where AI technologies have been developed. Autonomy was developed here,” said Penmetsa, who is an autonomy and mobility engineer. “Electric equipment and cars were developed here. So it makes a logical place for us to develop and deploy these technologies.”

Watch the full video above with CNBC’s Julia Boorstin to learn more about the opportunity for the nascent EV tractor industry.

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