CHEMICAL TECHNOLOGY

Wilbur-Ellis Partners with Guardian Agriculture in Multi-Million Dollar Agreement to Bring Autonomous Aerial Application to Growers Across America

Wilbur-Ellis | July 04, 2022 | Read time : 4 min

Wilbur-Ellis
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.

"Guardian's technology delivers tremendous benefits to both growers and the environment," said Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Guardian Ag, Adam Bercu. "Growers can expect a cost-effective application that will solve critical problems with coverage quality, sustainability, repeatability, and eliminate off-target spray and overspray," he said.

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.

"We are excited to make an early investment in this technology, which is the only unmanned aerial application system available today, and we're even more excited to partner with Guardian to commercialize it and bring it to our customers," said John Kuhn, Director of Business Development at Wilbur-Ellis. Operating in strong collaboration, both companies have worked together over the last year to commercialize and bring American growers advanced technology that will have immediate positive impacts for their business.

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."

"It's always great to see a company Cavallo Ventures has invested in grow into a commercial partnership with one of Wilbur-Ellis' divisions, such as what we're seeing today with Guardian Ag and our Agribusiness Division. Over its 100-year history, Wilbur-Ellis has always been, and continues to be, a leader of technological and innovative advances that make real differences for our customers. Our venture capital arm, Cavallo Ventures, actively seeks out new and exciting opportunities. I'm excited to add more flexibility and choices for our customers."

Mike Wilbur of Cavallo Ventures

Mark Ripato, Wilbur-Ellis Agribusiness President, said: "EVTOL systems allow Wilbur-Ellis to give customers more options for precise application to acreage, helping growers make the best decisions about when and how they treat their crops. It's particularly exciting to expand our already successful aerial business with a technology that is new to the market and one that I feel will make a real difference for our growers' crop success and give them a positive return on the investment with us."

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.

About Guardian Agriculture
Guardian Agriculture accelerates sustainable farming by providing all farmers with precise, eVTOL-based aerial application. Proudly manufacturing in the U.S., our mission is to define a new age of crop protection — empowering growers and their partners to refine their chemical use and grow more with less. 

About the Wilbur-Ellis Companies
Founded in 1921, the Wilbur-Ellis companies are leading international marketers, distributors and manufacturers of agricultural products, animal nutrients and specialty chemicals and ingredients. By developing strong relationships, making strategic market investments and capitalizing on new opportunities, the Wilbur-Ellis companies have continued to grow the business with sales of over $3 billion. 

Spotlight

Chemical companies rely on R&D and their laboratories to innovate so they can compete in increasingly crowded, global markets. In fact, innovation emerged as the most common problem in our recent chemical industry survey, with one-half of respondents citing it as their top business challenge. Of course, chemical companies face a host of shared challenges that they must address, including managing costs, capturing global markets, and driving sustainability

Spotlight

Chemical companies rely on R&D and their laboratories to innovate so they can compete in increasingly crowded, global markets. In fact, innovation emerged as the most common problem in our recent chemical industry survey, with one-half of respondents citing it as their top business challenge. Of course, chemical companies face a host of shared challenges that they must address, including managing costs, capturing global markets, and driving sustainability

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