A tech startup in Iowa became the first legally authorized company to fly drones for aerial application of agrichemicals in the state of Iowa, reported Crop Life.
“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.
Record rainfall this spring has decimated the Midwest, including many parts of Iowa.
Rantizo, which developed an easy-to-use drone spraying platform, could soon hit the fields spraying fungicide over crops to ensure parasitic fungi does not spread in the unusual wet conditions.
“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 said.
“This will undoubtedly affect yields,” he continued, citing that the USDA recently lowered the national average corn yield projection to 166 bushels per acre.
A Rantizo representative told The Gazette in April that the drones will replace traditional sprayer vehicles in the future because the technology is more precise and cheaper to use.
“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.”
Ott told The Gazette that Rantizo faced several challenges with the state of Iowa to get certified for flight. He said the company first needed to get their part 107 and Part 137 certifications from the FAA, which included section 44807 waivers in operating a drone over farmland.
The startup sorted out all regulatory hurdles and was cleared for flight in May. The final license for pesticide application from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) was recently granted.
“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.
Farmers across Iowa have been plagued with record rainfall that delayed many from planing earlier in the season. Wet weather also brings unwanted fungi to farmlands that could significantly reduce yields. Ott suggested that the drones will first spray fungicide on crops in the coming weeks.
“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 added, “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 (oftentimes by a 3rd party custom applicator) within 72 hours. Imagine this demand now across an entire state.”