Colruyt Group and Wolfcarius first in Belgium to test 100% electric, driver-optional Monarch MK-V tractor

Colruyt Group and Wolfcarius first in Belgium to test 100% electric, driver-optional Monarch MK-V tractor

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Today, at the orchard of fruit grower Wolfcarius in Gottem (Deinze), the kick-off was given for a test of a very special agricultural vehicle: the 100% electric, driver-optional, smart Monarch MK-V tractor. This highly innovative agricultural machine, developed by the US-based company Monarch Tractor, will be tested at Wolfcarius, conducting standard orchard operations such as mowing, spraying and transporting goods in the orchards over the coming week. From May 21st, the Monarch MK-V tractor will then be driving around for one week in Colruyt Group's own vineyard in Frasnes-lez-Anvaing where it will cut the grass between the narrow corridors of the vines on the hillside. This collaboration and concrete test are part of Colruyt Group's ambition to find sustainable and innovative solutions in agriculture, involving and inspiring existing partners in the process.

Looking for sustainable solutions to tackle today’s farming challenges

Labor shortages and climate change create, amongst others, a multitude of challenges for farmers all over the world, also in Belgium. Local farmers with orchards usually count on the help of seasonal workers during the busiest periods. It has become increasingly difficult to find the right people to perform the necessary time-intensive and repetitive tasks, such as cutting grass, hoeing and irrigation. In addition, as other sectors, the agricultural sector is also expected to reduce its CO2 emissions. Within farming, the shift towards full electrification is somewhat slower than for passenger cars, especially for very powerful agricultural machinery. Kim Vancauwenberghe, head of Colruyt Group Smart Innovation (including Smart Farming) adds: “But the trend towards more electrification and zero emission does seem to have been set in Belgian agriculture as well. To our opinion, there is also a great potential and interest for zero emission machinery that provide farmers with not only diesel savings and CO2 emissions reduction, but also data-driven insights and increased operational efficiency, realised through computer vision and AI”.

But not everyone has easy access to such innovative solutions. As a retail group, Colruyt Group is part of the agri-food chain and is in very frequent contact with its partners in the agricultural sector. ​ Via Astanor Ventures, Colruyt Group got in touch with Monarch Tractor, a US-based technology company, who developed the world’s first 100% electric, driver-optional, smart tractor that is now commercially available on the market. Kim Vancauwenberge: “We want to add value by facilitating partner farmers in the search for innovative sustainable solutions. We see it as our duty to, next to other initiatives, explore the possibility of electrification of agricultural vehicles like the Monarch MK-V tractor as possible means to tackle today’s farming challenges. Because in the end, these challenges are impacting everyone in the chain”, says Kim Vancauwenberghe.

Sustainable autonomous operations to facilitate the life of the farmer

Utilizing a Monarch MK-V tractor in place of a diesel tractor is the equivalent emission reduction of removing 14 passenger vehicles on the road, driving decarbonization in the agriculture industry. The Monarch MK-V can conduct various autonomous operations all while using farmers’ existing implements and trained labour. These autonomous operations elevate a single tractor operator to a fleet manager remotely monitoring up to several labour productivity and OpEx savings. Additionally, Monarch’s Wingspan Ag Intelligence (WingspanAI) platform offers data gathering, video collection, and emissions reduction tracking, helping minimize farmers’ additional work of reporting their compliance to mandates around chemical usage and emission reductions on farms.

With the Monarch MK-V, European farmers can more easily comply with regulations chemical and emissions reductions without the additional financial strain. Monarch’s pairing of clean energy and profitable ag technology represents a significant step forward for a sustainable farming future that benefits the farmer, the consumer, and the food ecosystem. With the Monarch MK-V, reduced emissions doesn’t mean reduced performance. The tractor is a zero-emissions powerhouse, with an industry-leading battery runtime of up to 14 hours, which varies based on farm, operation, and implement. Setting a new standard for farm safety, the Monarch MK-V will stop moving if it detects a human within 2 meters and automatically shuts off the Power-take-off if it detects a person within half a meter of the tractor hitch.

Wingspan AI
Wingspan AI

Praveen Penmetsa, CEO and co-founder of Monarch Tractor indicates: "We are thrilled to partner with Colruyt Group and showcase the Monarch MK-V tractor in Belgium, a country that is committed to investing in and supporting sustainable agricultural technologies. We believe that this test in Belgium will not only validate the effectiveness of the Monarch MK-V tractor, but also demonstrate that planet sustainability and farmer profitability can go hand-in-hand”. After the two-week-test in collaboration with Colruyt Group and Wolfcarius, Monarch will proceed with its European tour in the coming months.

Testing future-oriented solutions together with agricultural partners

The autonomous, electric tractor can handle the essential work in vineyards, orchards, dairies, and other agricultural sectors. As of today, the Monarch MK-V will be mowing the grass between the apple trees at Wolfcarius for the upcoming week. Stephan Wolfcarius from Wolfcarius adds: “We are very curious to see what this tractor can do in terms of scanning the land, possibly storing data for observation of disease patterns, insects and planting growth level. With regards to autonomous driving, we are looking forward to discovering what it can do, and how safe it all is. This machine could be a valuable help for operations like spraying, mowing and mechanical weed control, where speeds are sometimes very low and take a lot of labour time. Electrification is also something we need to work on to minimise Co2 emissions on our farm: tractor autonomy and charging time will be very important to us”.

Experimenting with innovative techniques on own farmland

Next to inspiring and facilitating access for partners, Colruyt Group also wants to invest in sustainable (zero-emission) innovative techniques on its own agricultural land. As of 21st May, the Monarch MK-V tractor will cut the grass between the narrow corridors of vines on the hillside on the vineyard of Colruyt Group in Frasnes-lez-Anvaing during one week. Kim Vancauwenberghe: “We will also test the Monarch MK-V tractor extensively ourselves on our own farmer lands. Our country is not quite ready legislatively for the optimal deployment of such vehicles. We ourselves will work with the results of the tests to see whether the tractor is a financially interesting investment for the 9ha vineyard we have, but certainly also what other opportunities - such as the power of the collected data from the cameras on the tractor - and forms of cooperation are possible. To give this innovation every chance in Belgium", Kim Vancuwenberghe concludes. This test fits in the innovative solutions that Colruyt Group applies on its own farmland, such as the test of black beans as crops of the future in Limburg and the tests with the beehives to map out the biodiversity, the plant diversity in the environment and any pollutants.

In case of questions, please contact the press office of Colruyt Group. For media questions specifically addressed to Monarch Tractor, you can contact Sandya Kola, Content & PR Manager, - World's First Electric Autonomous Tractor | Monarch Tractor