AURORA, Colo. -- Guardian Agriculture, a leading innovator and developer of the first fully autonomous crop protection aircraft system, secured a multi-million-dollar partnership with Wilbur-Ellis, a leading marketer, distributor and manufacturer of agriculture products, specialty chemicals, and animal feed. The partnership will give Wilbur-Ellis customers an opportunity to access this state-of-the-art 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 Chief Executive Officer of Cavallo Ventures at Wilbur-Ellis, Mike Wilbur.
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.
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 under way, 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.
With the Salinas Valley of California being eyed for potential first deployment of the eVTOL aircraft in 2023, Willie Negroni, Wilbur-Ellis Director of Sales, commented, "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."