Startup Aims To Lead Drone-based Crop Applications

AgTech startup Rantizo is working to lead the arrival of in-field application via drone. In Iowa, it’s the first company to receive approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct spraying applications via drone in agricultural fields. At the end of July, the company announced it received necessary approvals to spray in Wisconsin as well.

“Our drone technology had been ready for a few months; we just needed the regulatory landscape to get sorted out,” says Rantizo CEO, Michael Ott. “Building the technology is the easy part,” he continued.

The company’s octocopter drones weigh 55 lb., with a 14’ spray boom, and can apply 100 acres in a day. With terrain compensation, the drones apply 3’ to 5’ above the crop. And an advantage of the drone-based application is its precise application that is within 1 to 3 meters of the spray target using standard GPS, or with RTK it’s within 3 cm. 

“We are working with a crop chemical company in fungicide treatments making applications in specific rows,” Ott says. 

The Rantizo platform provides a fully automated flight.  

“Legally, you have to hold the controller, but with the right training, you don’t have to do anything else during the flight,” Ott says. 

He says across all crops and geographies, there are issues of labor, and there aren’t enough people to accomplish what you need. The Rantizo team is first focusing on sales in the Midwest and then expanding from there. Ott says their target end-customers are ag retailers and co-ops. 

According to the company their platform can be cost competitive with aerial rates at $10 to $12/acre to apply. And next year, they are working to advance a technology upgrade to make their applications in-line with ground rig rates. 

Ott says a complete Rantizo system ranges in price from $20,000 to $25,000. The company sold its first drone application system in April of 2019. This spring the company has applied corn fungicide and spread cover crop seeds. It has also made applications in hemp crops. 

Learn more in this AgriTalk interview with Ott.
 

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