Find The Ideal Aerial Operation

Aerial Application, Air Tractor

Once dealers make the decision to partner with an established aerial business, it may not be difficult to find a good fit. The ag aerial universe is rather small. Tony Goede, aerial manager with BASF Corp., cites the 1990s film that claims there are merely “Six Degrees of Separation� between any two people on the planet – in the aerial application world there are only about, umm, two degrees, he says.

It’s “really easy� to check someone out either through the national or state association or another ag operator, says Kevin Brown, Bluestem Aerial Sprayers, Cushing, OK.

In fact, membership in national and state associations can be a good indicator of the professionalism of a pilot, said many industry contacts we talked with. The largest group in the U.S. is the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA), headquartered in Washington D.C. The organization has a great number of resources available to keep aviation businesses informed (including training), as well as a team that lobbies for the industry’s interests on Capitol Hill and beyond. Its sharp website and magazine are gold mines of information for both those working in ag aerial companies and those outside the industry with questions.

Go local, suggested our contacts. These operators have the best understanding of potential issues of the local geography. If a neighbor company is not able to take on your clients, the owner will often times call in another trusted operator from outside the area to help, says Loren Koemen, regional business analyst with Wilbur-Ellis Co.

Ask growers, too, where to find pilots. Growers themselves have a pretty good network and know who the good aerial applicators are, says Gary Fellows, tech service fungicide and seed treatment manager with BASF: “They want to use the best.�

Details About Operations

In fact, experience that makes a company “the best� is a key factor to check into. Ask how long a pilot has been in business and touch on what kind of track record he’s had with issues such as drift. Make sure the operation has all the equipment and technology – in good condition – that it needs, as well as support staff such as a mechanic.

Also ask if an applicator attends plane calibration clinics each year, such as Operation S.A.F.E. (Self-Regulating Application & Flight Efficiency) fly-ins, offered by NAAA. The association actually publishes a list of attendees on its web site. State departments of agriculture can also provide pilot information.

Scott Schartz, owner of Schertz Aerial Service, Hudson, IL, listed some other good nuts and bolts issues to cover: Find out if the business carries all necessary liability insurance and workers’ compensation. Check out its facilities, containment structures, safety measures, and inspection requirements. Make sure applicators have all licenses and certification. And ask about any network that the company might be a part of and about how it manages additional planes to help at peak work load times.

A specific service valued by Mike Carrell, branch manager of Ceres LLP at Wingate, IN, was the ability to provide as-applied maps. “When we first started using aerial, customers were watching planes from a mile away and swearing our contractors were spraying the wrong field – or not spraying at all,� explains Carrell. An as-applied map stapled to the job invoice sent to the grower solves the problem.

Many of our contacts stressed the need to build a solid relationship with aerial applicators. Aerial companies with that positive bond and good communication deliver better service and can fulfill the demands of a retailer, especially when they need to forecast workload and bring in other pilots if needed, says Goede.

A major point made by all our industry contacts was the level of professionalism evidenced in the ag aerial industry today. Gone are the days of the wild-eyed cropdusters that many in the general public still cling to. The majority of applicators are highly skilled pilots and businessmen committed to their customers and communities.

Leave a Reply

Aerial Application Stories
Aerial ApplicationAerial Application Special Report – Sponsored by Air Tractor
September 1, 2012
As the 2012 season winds down in the United States, the trend I’ve seen in previous years continues...more and more growers are choosing aerial application to control diseases and pests. Read More
Top 100 Articles
Milan Kucerak, president/CEO, West Central
CropLife 100West Central Cooperative And Its New President Are A Match Made In Deviation
June 29, 2015
To appreciate just how unique West Central Cooperative is in the world of ag retail, an observer need only consider Read More
Winter Wheat
CropLife 100South Dakota Co-op Member Owners Vote No On Unification
June 26, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have announced that member-owners have voted Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manufacturer Kay-Flo
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
CropLife 100AgGateway’s Barcoding Initiative Progressing Nicely
May 8, 2015
According to legend (or Wikipedia), the first step towards modern bar codes came back in 1948, when Bernard Silver, a Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
Latest News
Agworld Apple Watch Farm Management
EquipmentAussie Data Management Software Company Making Its Mark…
July 4, 2015
Zach Sheely, vice president of sales and operations, says that several large, well-known U.S. cooperatives (Stanislaus Farm Supply, Wilco-Winfield and Read More
Topcon AGI-4 on MF Planter
EquipmentAutosteer: Compatibility, Accuracy Remain Top Of Mind
July 3, 2015
The world of automatic steering solutions in agriculture has evolved rapidly in the last few years. From after-market add-ons that Read More
ManagementUnited Suppliers/Land ‘O Lakes Merger & Crop Update
July 2, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the reasons behind the United Suppliers/Land ‘O Lakes merger and USDA’s recent Read More
Industry NewsBioSafe Adds To Sales Force
July 2, 2015
BioSafe Systems has announced the hire of two new members for its service team. David Britt recently joined the team Read More
Chesapeake Bay
ManagementChesapeake Bay Clean-Up Gets Renewed Attention
July 2, 2015
The Chesapeake Bay has been called one of the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world. It’s also one of Read More
Measuring Bulk Tanks
ManagementBulk Pesticide Compliance: Top 10 Areas Of Improvement …
July 1, 2015
  In honor of the 33-year run of David Letterman’s Late Show, the American Agronomic Stewardship Alliance (AASA) is happy Read More
Industry NewsArysta North America Hires Midwest Sales Manager
July 1, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the hiring of Brian Battles as the Senior Technical Sales Manager for the Midwest Read More
Farmer on tablet
Eric SfiligojThe Never-Ending Battle Against Modern Agriculture
July 1, 2015
In the world of comic books, the character of Superman often refers to the fight to save the world as Read More
Retail FacilitiesBuilding Up Ag Retail
July 1, 2015
In the oftentimes unpredictable world we live in, it’s nice to know some things can be reliably countered on to Read More
Retail FacilitiesMaple River Grain And Agronomy Phases In Site Developme…
July 1, 2015
Marcus Construction helped Maple River Grain and Agronomy in Casselton, ND, with the design-build of its dry fertilizer, liquid chemical/seed Read More
Retail FacilitiesA&B Welding Builds A New Liquid Terminal Hub For Br…
July 1, 2015
To build its new hub facility, Briggs Crop Nutrients enlisted the help of A&B Welding. The result, an efficient facility Read More
Edon Farmers Co-op
Retail FacilitiesNew Marcus Facility At Edon Farmers Co-op Provides More…
July 1, 2015
Edon Farmers Co-Op in Edon, OH, needed a new facility to consolidate outdated locations. Marcus Construction was able to design Read More
Retail FacilitiesKinder Morgan Expands Its Storage With A New Dome Barre…
July 1, 2015
Kinder Morgan wanted additional covered storage at its Dakota Bulk Terminal on the Mississippi River in St. Paul, MN. With Read More
Retail FacilitiesHeartland Tank Protects Fertilizer From Extreme Cold At…
July 1, 2015
The Arthur Companies in Harvey, ND, enlisted the help of Heartland Tank Companies to develop a new liquid fertilizer facility Read More
The McGregor Co. fertilizer loadout
Retail FacilitiesThe McGregor Co. Partners With Kahler Automation To Cre…
June 30, 2015
Kahler Automation helped The McGregor Co. expand its Clarkston, WA, operation with unstaffed loadout technology that enables customers to pick Read More
Dry and Liquid Plant
Retail FacilitiesKahler Automation Helps CHS Dakota Ag Cooperative Build…
June 30, 2015
CHS Dakota Ag Cooperative in Mooreton, ND, wanted a liquid/dry blender system that could meet the needs of its customers Read More
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes, United Suppliers To Merge Crop Inpu…
June 29, 2015
Land O’Lakes, Inc. and United Suppliers, Inc. of Ames, IA, today announced their intent to merge their crop inputs businesses. Read More
FungicidesHelena To Distribute Unique Summit Agro Fungicide
June 29, 2015
RANMAN 400 SC fungicide, the only fungicide with a FRAC group 21 designation, is now part of the innovative Summit Read More