This week, Rantizo became the first company in Iowa to be legally authorized to use drones for aerial application of agrichemicals. The first applications will be for fungicide in corn and spreading cover crop seeds to wet areas.
“Our drone technology had been ready for a few months; we just needed the regulatory landscape to get sorted out,” Rantizo CEO, Michael Ott explained. “Building the technology is the easy part,” he continued.
With record levels of rainfall this year resulting in delayed planting of corn crops, the approval for Rantizo’s drone based services could not have come at a more beneficial time for Iowa farmers.
“Rain prohibited farmers from getting their corn crops in within the timeline they are used to this year. When I last checked at the end of June, only 96% of corn crop had been planted whereas typically they’re at 100% by this time,” Ott explained. “This will undoubtedly affect yields,” he continued, citing that the USDA recently lowered the national average corn yield projection to 166 bushels per acre.
Rantizo, an Iowa City-based agtech startup specializing in drone spraying for agriculture, achieved a milestone crucial to not only their business, but the evolution of technology for improved field practices.
Currently, aerial application in agriculture is done by way of a manned aerial aircraft (commonly known as crop dusters), and although drone application is also done aerially, the nature of this new technology required refinement and often times navigation of uncharted territory throughout the regulatory path to viability.
“Our drone technology offers new improvements to agricultural crop applications such as increased field access, reduced headcount and ability to spot apply,” Ott stated. “In other words, we can get in the fields to treat pests faster, with less people and in more effective ways that require less chemicals.”
In order to legally operate their technology in the state of Iowa, Rantizo needed their Part 107 and Part 137 certifications from the FAA, which included section 44807 waivers to operate a drone for agricultural application of materials. The company received those certifications in May. The final component needed was licensure for pesticide application from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
“As the first company in the state to request this for drone operation there was inherently a learning curve involved, but we are thankful to IDALS for working with us on this and ultimately allowing us to pave a new path necessary for improved agricultural practices. Next we will work with other states to achieve the same,” Craig Perry, Rantizo’s Director of Operations explained.
To compound on the planting delays caused by rainfall this spring, Ott suggests that fungicide applications will be imperative.
“The last thing corn growers need is to lose additional yield to pests and disease,” Ott stated. “Current solutions offer a suboptimal outcome at best. They require growers to spray their entire field. This gives options which are not cost effective or ineffective altogether, so many take the chance and don’t spray anything at all.”
Ott went on to say “Fungicide applications are most effective within 72 hours of disease infection. This means if a corn crop is infected, the farmer is left to detect the infection and spray the field (often times by a 3rd party custom applicator) within 72 hours. Imagine this demand now across an entire state. Given current labor shortages in agriculture, this can present major challenges.”
With Rantizo’s drone technology, the company claims they will be able to reach more fields in less time bringing opportunity for a fruitful corn harvest to more Iowa growers than ever before. The company says they are ready to hit the ground running…or flying in this case.
In April of 2019, Rantizo made its first drone sale and has begun to gain interest from growers and ag retailers all over the country.