Jul 4, 2022
Wilbur-Ellis, Guardian Ag partner to bring autonomous aircrafts to growers

Guardian Agriculture, the developer of the first fully autonomous crop protection aircraft system, has secured a multi-million-dollar partnership with Wilbur-Ellis, a marketer, distributor and manufacturer of agriculture products, specialty chemicals and animal feed. The partnership will give Wilbur-Ellis customers an opportunity to access this technology before anyone else.

“This is the first new aerial technology to make a material impact on American farms. We believe it can be profitably and rapidly deployed and are looking forward to working with Guardian Ag to roll out their technology to our customers and partners,” said Mike Wilbur, chief executive officer of Cavallo Ventures at Wilbur-Ellis.

Guardian Ag’s fully electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft system can safely and securely deliver precision application of crop protection in a fraction of the time and cost. The autonomous aircraft can carry multi-hundred-pound payloads and address a wide range of application spray volumes and application needs for growers. With four six-foot propellers and an overall 15-foot aircraft width, the eVTOL system efficiently covers 40 acres per hour of full-field crop protection to the grower.

Designed and manufactured in the U.S. and combining an autonomous aircraft, a ground station supercharger and software generating domestically stored data, the eVTOL systems offer on-target application to fields when and where necessary. Using industry-standard nozzles, pressure, droplet sizes and application volumes, Guardian’s eVTOL aircraft systems are one of the most safe and cost-effective methods to deliver full-field application.

“Guardian’s technology delivers tremendous benefits to both growers and the environment,” said Adam Bercu, chief executive officer and co-founder of Guardian Ag. “Growers can expect a cost-effective application that will solve critical problems with coverage quality, sustainability, repeatability, and eliminate off-target spray and overspray.”

With in-flight monitoring, measurement, and data collection capabilities, application variables are collected in real-time, including wind speed, temperature, obstructions and more. Coupled with pre-planned flight plans, designated spray boundaries and spray rates, Guardian’s systems will significantly reduce application errors by providing superior spray quality with reduced environmental and economic risk impacts.

“Our autonomous systems deliver high-precision crop protection, enabling significant improvements in environmental safety for workers, soil health, and beneficial insect conservation,” said Jeff Sparks, co-founder and chief operating officer of Guardian Ag. Additionally, eVTOL systems are 100 percent electric and capable of reducing emissions by millions of pounds annually when compared to traditional application methods.

“As the largest commercial commitment to agriculture robotics to date, this investment and partnership signify Wilbur-Ellis’ dedication to delivering meaningful, impactful innovation and technology to growers across our footprint,” said John Buckley, president and chief executive officer of Wilbur-Ellis. Wilbur-Ellis’ application business currently covers approximately five million acres annually. The eVTOL systems will support Wilbur-Ellis’ strong aerial operations business throughout its large share of the aerial application market by adding eVTOL aircraft to its current helicopter and fixed-wing fleets.

Guardian’s regulatory approval process is well underway, with commercialization and availability to growers occurring in 2023. “Guardian’s autonomy and powertrain technologies allow us to rapidly expand our product line to meet the needs of all American farmers,” said Dan Cody, Guardian’s vice president of software.

The Salinas Valley of California is being eyed for the potential first deployment of the eVTOL aircraft in 2023.

“Guardian’s aircraft solution complements our current aerial application business in the Salinas Valley and we see opportunity for customers, particularly around hard-to-spray areas, because eVTOL systems have the potential to provide a better application than what is currently available today,” said Willie Negroni, Wilbur-Ellis’ director of sales.

Guardian Agriculture was co-founded by Adam Bercu and Jeff Sparks out of the need to make tangible, meaningful, positive impacts on the world with electric systems. Seeking to solve actual, everyday problems growers face, Guardian Ag is accelerating sustainable farming by providing access to precision application to all American farmers, dramatically improving crop protection, the environment, and the farmer’s bottom line. “We’re making the future that we dreamed of as children come to life by creating technology that will benefit the real world,” said Guardian Ag’s COO, Jeff Sparks. Guardian Ag has delivered the first-of-its-kind unmanned aerial crop application aircraft and Wilbur-Ellis is excited to commercialize this American-made solution and make it available to growers across the country.

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