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Taking Flight

Steady rain falls on Midwestern farmland while a farmer and their equipment sit idly by, helpless to the weather preventing them from doing their jobs. For days, the ground could be too saturated for their heavy equipment to get into the fields and work. The farmer is behind on planting, crops need to be sprayed, and there just aren’t enough people or hours in the day to accomplish all that needs to be done.

Unfortunately, this is an all too common reality for today’s farmer. However, Iowa native and Rantizo CEO Michael Ott believes his company and its product have the solution to these problems.

Founded by Ott in 2018 and based in Iowa City, Rantizo is the first and only company approved for drone spraying in five Midwestern states: Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska. Through an easy-to-use platform and pre-programmed autonomous flight, the company spreads both liquid and solid solutions right where they need to go, when they need to be there.

Ott’s company is an example of how the agriculture industry is evolving through innovative technology. With Rantizo, Ott offers a way to use modern technology to help farmers become more efficient and deliver better, healthier food to the world’s ever-growing population.

“We are approaching 9 billion people in the world, but fewer and fewer are working in agriculture,” said Ott. “Using drones helps today’s farmers create more food, with fewer workers.” Drones can also work faster than traditional methods of crop application, improving profitability.

Ott adds that the use of drones can have a positive impact on the environment. “Not only is it wasteful to spray chemicals where they aren’t needed, it also causes chemical run off, over spray and drift. Our product applies chemicals quickly, easily and right where they are needed,” he said.

Rantizo accomplishes this through technology in the form of an octocopter drone weighing 55 pounds. Each drone is equipped with a 14-foot spray boom that can spray more than 100 acres, or roughly 75 football fields, of crops in a single day. Ott’s product is also a cost-competitive solution for farmers as the price for complete Rantizo systems range from $20,000 to $25,000, one-twentieth the cost of a traditional ground rig used for spraying.

Ott, who grew up in Dyersville, has an undergraduate degree from Simpson College in Indianola and a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Iowa. He believes the Hawkeye state was the perfect place for him to start his business. “Although I’ve traveled a lot, home for me has always been Iowa,” he said. “Iowans are good people, nice, honest and straight forward. We do what we are supposed to do and take care of business.”

Ott’s passion for his home state, efficiency and “putting a little bit of valuable material right where it needs to be” served as the foundation for starting Rantizo. “At my last company, I invented a way to put a tiny amount of nitrogen on a rice seed to help growth,” said Ott. “The drone spraying idea is the same concept, just applied differently.”

Initially, Rantizo focused on servicing high-value, low-acre crops such as berries, vineyard grapes, fruits and cannabis. Now, the company is moving toward commodity crop applications and spraying fungicide on corn and soybeans. As the company’s services evolve and change, so do the reception and views from harvesters.

“We are seeing a lot of enthusiasm from farmers,” Ott said. “Their mindset toward our product has shifted from, ‘this is interesting, but a toy for someone else to play with,’ to now realizing it can serve as a tool they can use in their arsenal.”

Ott says that his company has had no shortage of work coming their way and looks forward to expanding operations “to Hawaii, New York and everywhere in between.” When asked about the future of Rantizo, he says they are continuing to build and refine their technology.

“We are working to enhance the area we can cover per flight,” Ott said. “We are also working to get as many drones out in as many fields as possible, so we can provide services in all of the places they are needed. We are extremely excited about the future of our company and agriculture industry.”

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