Boeing’s fired CEO’s next act involves self-driving electric tractors made by a former Tesla executive

  • Former Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg is advising a robotic tractor maker, Bloomberg reports.
  • Monarch Tractors, which launched its first product this month, was cofounded by former Tesla executive.
  • Unlike some larger applications, Monarch’s small tractors are battery powered and “driver optional.”
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Former Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg has had a relatively quiet year after being fired from the embattled aerospace giant in December 2019.

For starters, he’s ridden 17,000 miles on his bike this year, according to a Bloomberg report. And, for when his $US62 million golden parachute runs out, he’s also taken to advising startups. One in particular that’s caught his eye specialises in autonomous electric tractors and counts former Tesla executive Mark Schwager as cofounder.

Monarch Tractor this month launched its first product: a $US50,000, all-in-one farm tool that aims to save farmers time and money while reducing the massive amount of emissions diesel-powered farm equipment usually produces. The 35-person company says “hundreds” of customers have already placed $US500 deposits.

“They have all the elements to be a strong, robust, growing business,” Muilenburg told Bloomberg. CEO Praveen Penmetsa says the former aviation executive who made his entire career at Boeing, is “very engaged.”

Just like on the highway, investor and consumer interest in electric vehicles is booming in agriculture, too. From small applications like Monarch’s target market, to massive industrial manufacturers like John Deere and CNH Industrial, companies are hoping to couple cheaper and lighter battery technology with advancements in autonomy to further cut costs and emissions in the sector.

Read more: Industrial giant CNH is gearing up for life after diesel, and electric vehicles are not included

For larger applications — especially in broad crops, where a machine can do most of the planting and harvesting work, and heavy trucks — hydrogen fuel cells are also increasingly popular.

“We are not trying to change the paradigm on the farmer,” Penmetsa said on a podcast in October. “We are just trying to give him the latest and greatest tools with both the hardware technology — and also the AI technology — that the farmer can use.”