Autonomous Tractors are Scaling Amidst Labor Shortages - The Road to Autonomy

Autonomous Tractors Take the Wheel Amidst Labor Shortages

Sam Abidi, Chief Commercial Officer, Monarch Tractor joined Grayson Brulte on The Road to Autonomy podcast to discuss Monarch’s autonomous MK-V tractor and how the growing labor shortages are accelerating the adoption of autonomous tractors on farms around the world.

The conversation begins with Sam discussing how Monarch Tractor is approaching autonomy.

From day one we were thinking about how you could build an autonomy kit that could go on a tractor, that can essentially reach a price point that most farmers can use, and where we landed is that you need to do a bottom up build of the tractor — that tractor is called the MK-V.

– Sam Abidi

With the global economy shifting to a labor light economy, due to a growing labor shortage, autonomy applications on farms is rapidly accelerating.

If you actually go talk to some of our farmers, many of them are coming to us because it is an alternative to having no one do that job.

– Sam Abidi

Monarch takes a farmer frugal approach to autonomy as they know every dollar counts on a farm. The farmer frugal approach enables Monarch to charge farmers $800 a month to unlock the autonomous capabilities of the $90,000 MK-V tractor, which is less the equivalent labor cost.

In the future as the model evolves, Monarch is exploring the possibility of introducing a tractor-as-a-service model for select regions around the world. If this model comes to fruition, Monarch will not hold the asset (tractor) on their balance sheet. Instead they will look to a partner to hold the assets (tractor) as it is not an effective use of their capital to hold tractors on their balance sheet.

Today, Monarch has a financial services agreement with CNH Industrial Capital America to provide financing for the MK-V tractor. The Monarch MK-V is an all-electric tractor with a swappable battery that can run 14-hours.

Financing is an important part of farm economics.

– Sam Abidi

When a Monarch tractor is deployed on a farm, farmers control all the applications of the autonomous tractor with their proprietary WingspanAI digital platform.

If you automate a tractor and you have a dozen tractors or two dozen tractors running the farm and then you connect those to a digital platform, that essentially tracks everything from when they are dispatched to what they are doing to how well they are doing it, you have essentially digitized the farm.

– Sam Abidi

The data that Monarch’s autonomous tractors are gathering will enable the company to create new revenue streams in the future by monetizing the rich amount of data that the tractors gather on a daily basis.

To scale, Monarch has a partnership with Foxconn to manufacturer the MK-V at their Ohio facility. The decision to engage Foxconn for manufacturing was made from the lessons that the founders learned from their years in the automotive industry.

Wrapping up the conversation, Sam shares his vision for the future of Monarch Tractor.

Follow The Road to Autonomy on Apple Podcasts

Recorded on Tuesday, November 7, 2023