December 04, 2023

Drone services, new products ready for next growing season

SHEFFIELD, Ill. — Gripp Custom Farming was among numerous agriculture businesses featuring the latest technologies during the Greater Peoria Farm Show Nov. 29-Dec. 1.

Bill Winter, Gripp Custom Farming sales representative, said the firm has full ag retail locations in Sheffield and Wyanet.

“We do fertilizer, chemical, full service, wholesale and our big thing is drone applications. We do drone applications for fungicide and some herbicide applications, as well,” Winter said.

“Last year we did 30,000 acres of fungicide applications with drones. This year we’re going to have 12 drones available for in-season fungicide applications.”

What are the advantages of drone applications?

Winter: It’s all coming down to precision agriculture. We have precision ag at the planter. We have precision ag and sustainable agriculture. So, we want to be more precise with our applications per acre.

With the drone, especially with obstructions like windmills, power lines, tree lines, creeks, everything involved, we can get more precise with a drone instead of an airplane or helicopter flying 50 feet in the air.

We can be 12 feet in the air going about 20 miles per hour across the field, which makes a more precise application for fungicide.

You don’t lose chemical moving away, and you don’t have a big scary plane out there making neighbors nervous, people in town nervous with planes or helicopters buzzing their house and getting an off-target application of product.

How many acres per load can be covered with a drone?

Winter: We ran four smaller T30 drones last year. They have about an 8-gallon tank. This year we have upgraded to the T40 with a 10.5-gallon tank. So, we’re going to get anywhere from 8 to 10 acres per load. It takes about 10 minutes to run-off a load.

The drone comes back, lands, it’s filled and a new battery put in and it’s off in one minute and back out spraying. We have to keep four batteries per drone in a constant rotation, making sure we are charging them every 8 to 10 minutes.

So, it is four people to a trailer. Each of our trailers has two drones and we have four people manning those two drones at all times.

What are some of Gripp’s new offerings?

Winter: One of our new products is Full Feed that we get from Meristem Crop Performance. That is a stalk digester with the same biologicals that are used in oil spills that eat carbon.

We spray that in the fall and the spring, and it eats the carbon off your stalks and releases it back into the soil for more NPK, more carbon in the soil.

There are other products out there that require UAN or ATS to activate the breakdown of stalks, but then you have what’s called a gassing off effect where the nutrients and the carbon go into the atmosphere. Full Feed has the biologicals excreted back down into the soil.

Another product we’re really excited about that’s new this year is Revline Hopper Throttle. It is a starter in a bottle.

So, it is a full starter in a talc-graphite formulation as your lubricant with the equivalent of one quart per acre of zinc, a plant growth regulator, iron and manganese, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and bacteria that help release potash and phosphorous, as well.

What is the history of the business?

Winter: Chad Gripp started Gripp Custom Farming in Sheffield about 20 years ago. Chad is a sixth-generation farmer. He just wanted to expand the business and do more to help his neighbors and offer another option for chemical and fertilizer applications. He bought a sprayer and did some spraying for local co-ops.

He decided to go out on his own and run his own custom business. So, he and his wife started out small, spraying a few acres for neighbors. Over the last five years we’ve grown into a full fertilizer and chemical operation.

We recently purchased Morton Fertilizer Service facility in Wyanet. We also bought another location just outside of Wyanet, the Rediger Auction facility, that we will be expanding to in December. So, we are growing and we offer the full line of retail offers.

Tom Doran

Tom C. Doran

Field Editor