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Large Drone Used To Seed Cover Crops
Tom Leitgen, a longtime engineer with farming roots, believes there’s no better time than now to use drone technology for seeding.
  Leitgen developed the AeroSeeder drone as a more efficient, less expensive solution to seed cover crops on his northeast Iowa farm. After testing the product on local farms with positive results, Leitgen is ready for the drone to hit the market.
  “Our family has always been big into conservation efforts,” Leitgen says. His father Tom started seeding cover crops into standing corn and beans several years ago. Leitgen says around 2014 his father came to him with the idea that they should start seeding cover crops with a drone. He thought about the idea while his engineering work took him overseas, then returned to the family farm in 2016 to design a drone seeder. He used his experience as a model airplane pilot to formulate a plan for the seeding drone.
  “The basic design for the drone wasn’t all that complicated. However, there was a steep learning curve,” Leitgen says. His AeroSeeder is 65 in. dia., 55 in. long, and can travel up to 22 mph. It can carry 25 to 30 lbs. of payload and drop about 10 to 20 lbs. of seed per acre. The drone is controlled by GPS positioning, which allows precision accuracy while flying and seeding. It can seed up to 100 acres in 8 hrs. at variable seeding rates. Sensors on the drone allow it to adapt to altitude and terrain.
  Leitgan says each seeding flight takes about 4 min. “We fill it up with seed, then send it out to drop its load. We bring it back when it’s empty, refill it and launch it again,” Leitgen says. “We’re doing short, very powerful, push-to-the-limit kinds of flights. That can wear on a machine. So, the process of building a robust drone that can withstand all the rigors and continuous, hard operation can be difficult.”
  After passing local field tests, Leitgen says the AeroSeeder functioned well on farms in New Zealand and Germany. He’s currently offering a pre-production drone for about $10,000, which doesn’t include batteries and chargers, which can add about $3,000 to $4,000 to the final price. “For someone with drone experience, we think this package will perform well,” Leitgen says. “There definitely are cost savings, especially compared to using a crop duster, which requires a pilot, a small crew, air time, fuel and other expenses.”
  Leitgen says other advantages with drone seeding include no damage to existing crops by driving through them and definitely no compaction. “There’s a low labor requirement, and seeding can be done when soil conditions are less than ideal for ground machines.”
  Leitgen used one drone and one or two assistants in 2019 when he seeded about 430 acres near his farm. In 2020 he seeded about 630 acres with the same assistance. He uses a mix of winter rye, annual rye grass, turnips, radishes and other seeds. He says the drone can spread most seeds, including cereal rye.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, AeroSeeder LLC, 28879 232nd St., Garnavillo, Iowa 52049 (ph 563 235-3460; tom.leitgen@aeroseeder.com; www.aeroseeder.com) or Loyal Leitgen, P.O. Box 69, Garnavillo, Iowa 52049.

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2021 - Volume #45, Issue #1