Boeing's fired CEO's next act involves self-driving electric tractors made by a former Tesla executive (BA)

Monarch electric tractorMonarch Tractor

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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 $62 million golden parachute runs out, he's also taken to advising startups. One in particular that's caught his eye specializes in autonomous electric tractors and counts former Tesla executive Mark Schwager as cofounder.

Monarch Tractor this month launched its first product: a $50,000, 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 $500 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."

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