Indian company helps develop the world’s first autonomous electric tractor

The Monarch Tractor unveiled in December in the United States may not be coming to India anytime soon, but there is an Indian angle to the project. VST Tillers Tractors, a Bengaluru-based company making tillers and compact tractors for over five decades, is a technical supplier partner for the Monarch Tractor. The two companies worked together for over a year to develop the world’s first autonomous electric tractor.

Interestingly, Monarch Tractor was co-founded by Indian-origin Praveen Penmetsa, who is now the CEO of the company. “Coupling Monarch’s intelligence with tested hardware from an international brand in the compact tractor segment ensures our robust tractor exceeds global standards,” Penmetsa said about the partnership with VST Tillers Tractors. Antony Cherukara, the Indian company’s CEO, said that “VST Tillers Tractors Ltd. is excited to be part of this journey along with Monarch Tractor.” In an interview with IANS, Cherukara said that the company will launch electric tractors in India in the future, ET has reported.

Electric powertrain technology has the potential to revolutionise utility vehicles, including tractors and farm equipment. The Monarch Tractor is the world’s first tractor that is not only Electric but Smart and Autonomous.

The Monarch Tractor features a modern design that gives an interesting funky and high-tech look you don’t get on low-cost vehicles. Monarch says that the electric tractor’s drive system generates 30 kW or 40 hp of continuous power and 55 kW or 70 hp of peak power. Four-wheel drive drivetrain layout is optional. The Monarch Tractor takes 4-5 hours for a complete charge and can be operated for more than 10 hours on a full charge. It has a has lift capacity of 2,200 lbs. or 998 kg.

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The Monarch Tractor is a smart tractor that collects and analyzes over 240 GB of crop data every day it is working on the field. It utilizes machine learning to process the data and give a long-term analysis of the health of the field’s health. This data is stored in a Monarch cloud. Tractor alerts, micro-weather condition updates, data collection, storage and analysis, and detailed operations reports are available conveniently via a smartphone or other personal device for the farm owner.

The Monarch Tractor features autonomous driving technology so that it can operate even without a driver. It doesn’t need a driver or an operator to execute pre-programmed tasks. ‘Gesture’ and ‘Shadow’ modes allow making it follow a worker on the job. The new-age tractor can also be used as a generator in the field.

Highlights of the Monarch Tractor include advanced safety features like a 360-degree camera system, roll and collision prevention and vision-based Power Take Off (PTO) safety.

Monarch Tractor front three quarters
The Monarch Tractor can be operated for more than 10 hours on a full charge.

With its electric powertrain, smart vehicle functions, autonomous driving tech and advanced safety features, the Monarch Tractor doesn’t come cheap. Its starting price is $50,000 or INR 36 lakh, which makes it about five-seven times more expensive than an ordinary Mahindra or TAFE tractor.

Mahindra, which owns the world’s largest tractor company, has said that it has worked on an electric tractor but doesn’t have a launch anytime soon. Speaking to reporters in October last year during a virtual roundtable with journalists, this was communicated:

We have done some work but the time has not come for Electric Tractor.

Dr Pawan Goenka, Managing Director of Mahindra & Mahindra on the company’s plan for an e-tractor.