US Wilbur-Ellis Partners With Guardian Agriculture To Bring Autonomous Aerial Applications

Published online: Jul 06, 2022 Articles Mark Milam, Independent Commodity Intelligence Services
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Houston (ICIS)--US agricultural company Wilbur-Ellis Company has announced it has entered a partnership with Guardian Agriculture which will bring leading innovation in autonomous aerial applications to growers across the country.

While financial details were not disclosed, Wilbur-Ellis said it represents the largest commercial commitment to agriculture robotics to date.

As designed, the 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.

It can carry multi-hundred-pound payloads and address a wide range of application spray volumes and application needs for growers and can efficiently cover 40 acres per hour.

Wilbur-Ellis said the partnership will give their 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 Mike Wilbur, Cavallo Ventures at Wilbur-Ellis CEO.

The company said 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.

The technology features in-flight monitoring, measurement, data collection capabilities and the ability to collect application variables including wind speed, temperature and obstructions.

When coupled with pre-planned flight plans, designated spray boundaries and spray rates, it is believed that Guardian's systems will significantly reduce application errors.

“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, Guardian Ag Chief Operating Officer.

The eVTOL systems are 100% electric and capable of reducing emissions by millions of pounds annually when compared to traditional application methods.

Wilbur-Ellis CEO John Buckley said this investment and partnership demonstrates their company’s dedication to delivering impactful innovation and technology to growers.

“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,” said Buckley.

The company said Guardian's regulatory approval process is well under way, with commercialisation and availability to growers occurring in 2023, with the Salinas Valley of California being eyed as the area for the potential first deployment of eVTOL aircraft.