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Rantizo is bringing drone technology to the ag industry


This story is part of a series that will look at and profile each of the six startups in NewBoCo’s Fall 2018 accelerator programs.

An Iowa City-based agtech startup is looking to change the way we spray crops.

Rantizo uses drone technology to spray crops, allowing farmers to more precisely deliver chemicals, such as fertilizer, to their fields.

Instead of using heavy tractors that can compress crops and spray gallons of liquid, Rantizo uses drones mounted with sprayers that send out electrically-charged droplets, which will enable liquid chemicals to wrap around and stick to plants.

“Basically, what we do is image what’s going on in a field to understand where there are problems, diagnose what those problems are and then deliver the needed spraying precisely where it’s needed, when it’s needed using a drone,” Michael Ott, Rantizo CEO said.

Initially, Rantizo will work with high-value crops that don’t take up a huge amount of area but still derive a lot of value, such as organic crops and greenhouse crops. Eventually, they plan to expand into commodity role crops as well.

“Our goal is to get to autonomous application. Because truthfully what we’re solving is the fact that there isn’t enough labor available in agriculture,” Ott said. “We’re trying to solve that by using software and machinery right where it’s needed when it’s needed.”

Dronesprayer flight

In March, Rantizo won the AgLaunch Startup Station Pitch Contest in Memphis, a competition for agtech startups to show off their products before farmers and agriculture-industry members. Two other Iowa agtech start-ups, Cedar Rapids-based SwineTech and Waukee-based AgriSync, also pitched during the AgLaunch competition.

Rantizo was recently announced as one of four companies participating in the 2018 fall cohort of the Iowa Startup Accelerator.

“I’ve been intimately familiar with the accelerator since it began so knew it had a lot to offer,” Ott said.

During the accelerator, Ott says he plans to improve Rantizo’s marketing footprint, continue developing the technology and advance the company’s intellectual property.”

Rantizo is currently doing trials locally and in Memphis with plans of having a product ready to sell in October 2019.

“Our market is custom applicators. They tend to wait until the harvest is done and start looking to buy new equipment and technology in October,” Ott said. “So we want to be ramped up and ready for that by next year.”

Rantizo is bringing drone technology to the ag industry | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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