Last week, SPN had the chance to speak with Michael Ott, founder and CEO of Rantizo – a company offering a unique, easy-to-use and cost-effective solution to agrichemical spraying via drones.
Rantizo sells agricultural drones and drone spraying services. These drones deliver targeted sprays precisely where they are needed for various agricultural applications. Rantizo’s upgraded DJI Agras MG-1P Drones are currently being used in five states throughout the Midwest and are becoming more popular among farmers.
Close up of Rantizo’s DJI Agras MG-1P Drone
With uses for Rantizo’s drones becoming more standardized, we asked Michael to provide a real-world example of how his drones are being used by his customers.
“A recent client of ours owned a field that had a few unplantable wet spots due to continuous rainfall. With our patented technology, we mapped the location of these wet spots and precisely dropped cover crop to reduce moisture and weed pressure exclusively in spots with high concentrations of water. Ultimately, this was a safer and more efficient way to handle this problem, which couldn’t be solved using a traditional method.” Michael said.
The company’s revenue strategy consists of a couple of revenue streams. Customers have the option to either purchase the ag-drones themselves or hire Rantizo for spraying services. Additionally, Michael explained that currently, his company’s main source of clientele results from word of mouth.
“As of right now, we have been receiving quite a few calls about interest in our products or services. I think it’s because people are shocked when they learn the scale that we can cover,” he said. “I also plan to start reaching out to ag retailers later this fall and ultimately get prepared to start spraying a lot more next season.”
Furthermore, Michael mentioned that his promising drone-based solution to deal with Bur cucumber, an aggressive summer vine that can significantly reduce crop yield, has also piqued the interests of many producers across the Midwest.
Rantizo is constantly refining and improving their product’s design. As Michael explained, his company’s drones covered only five acres per hour back in April of this year. Today, however, that number is upwards of 14 acres per hour. With some technological improvements, Michael mentioned that he expects that number to be over 20 acres per hour by the end of this year.
According to Rantizo’s website, the global chemical application market is a $36 billion industry; chemical effectiveness is decreasing, leading to increasing application costs for farmers. Moreover, crop prices significantly below their 2011-2013 peak, farmers have cost efficiency in mind.
With this in mind, here is what Michael had to say about starting his company.
“I like to be really efficient in the field,” Michael said. “At my previous job, I invented a way to precisely deliver a tiny amount of nitrogen on a seed. At that time, I thought to myself ‘how can I replicate this concept?’ and I thought of drones as they were just becoming cost-effective.”
Michael Ott, founder of Rantizo, pictured above.
It wasn’t long after that Michael pursued his innovative idea and Rantizo was born. His company utilizes drones to apply both liquids (pesticides) and solids (seeds, pollen, beneficial insects, etc.) to fields. Additionally, Rantizo is the only company that has acquired necessary permits on both the state and national levels to legally pilot drones, particularly for agricultural purposes. Michael explained that this has certainly given his company a competitive advantage over other competitors. He also mentioned that the regulatory process surrounding drones is proving to be the biggest obstacle that his company has had to overcome. Despite this obstacle, he is preparing to acquire permits for every state across the nation, one state at a time.
As an entrepreneur, Michael stated that he loves putting people in a position to succeed. He also opened up about the importance of team building, stating how crucial it is to recognize your weaknesses by recruiting team members that are proficient in areas where you may lack.
Michael has quite a portfolio of great experiences as founder of Rantizo, however, there was one story that stuck out the most to the SPN team. Michael explained that Rantizo was a late addition to a past pitch competition. To his own surprise, Rantizo ended up winning the pitch competition, awarding his company $20,000. As Michael explained, this was money that he had not anticipated receiving for his company. Therefore, he wanted to do something special for his team. Using the money from the pitch competition, Michael decided to write checks for each member of his team and call a team meeting. After expressing his gratitude for his team, he surprised them with bonus checks that he taped underneath their chairs.
Michael announced as Des Moines AgTech Innovation Competition winner
Rantizo started in 2018 and is currently in the initial stages of selling its minimum viable product, with technology enhancements coming. Michael’s ultimate goal for the company is to completely automate agricultural spraying with swarms of drones, which would be programmed to fly, spray, and re-fill autonomously. Michael also hinted at the release of an app and a potential funding round. The Iowa City-based company currently has seven team members and has expressed plans to hire two additional employees.
For more information about this company, please visit: https://rantizo.com
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