Drone entrepreneur eyes local ag industry

Lorain County Community College graduate Ethan Moore tests a drone that he plans to use to help local farmers. (Photo: LCCC)

Ethan Moore’s drone is a head-turner. Literally. 

“People driving by will slow down and then turn around and come back,” Moore says. “They all ask, ‘Is that what I think it is?’” 

Yes, it’s an impressively large drone. The DJI Agras T40 is equipped with a 40-liter tank, eight propellers and two spray nozzles. It was designed specifically for agricultural applications. And Moore has built his business around this specialized equipment. 

In 2022, Moore launched Lake Erie Drone, LLC, a company offering a new type of pesticide and fungicide application for local farms. His target customers are the smaller farms, less than 100 acres, commonly found in Lorain County, Ohio. Most often, these farms sit near residential homes, raising issues with crop duster application. 

“What’s really cool about the drone is that it pushes the chemical into the canopy of the crop,” Moore says. “So, it’s not drifting off into the environment or toward people’s homes.”  

He adds that the low-altitude application and downdraft produced by the propellers helps the spray hit the lower rungs of the crops, where it’s needed most. And, compared to ground rig application, there’s no compressing the soil or crushing crop.  

“I’m really proud that this business and this service provides local farms with a very high-quality product that’s being applied in the most effective and efficient way,” he says. 

An idea with roots in high school

The idea for Lake Erie Drone was seeded back in Moore’s high school days. While attending Wellington High School, Moore, now 22, built a small drone for an audio/visual class.  

“The whole project was really interesting and so cool,” Moore says. “That stuck in the back of my head.”  

At the forefront of Moore’s mind, however, was finishing high school with as many college credits as he could. He enrolled in Lorain County Community College’s (LCCC) College Credit Plus program and, with the LCCC Wellington Center nearby, maxing out on credits was really convenient.  

“I started dabbling with College Credit Plus in my sophomore year, but as that year went on, I could see that earning a degree while in high school was viable,” Moore says.  

With the exception of band class, Moore took exclusively LCCC classes during his junior and senior years. And when he graduated from Wellington High School in 2019, he earned his associate of science degree from LCCC, too.   

“CCP got me started on an adult path when I was younger,” he says.  

Nursing first

Moore says he knew exactly where that adult path would lead. Even before graduation, he had enrolled in LCCC’s nursing program. At just 17 years of age, he was the youngest ever to do so.  

“Nursing is a great profession where you get to help lots of people,” Moore says. “And it runs in my family. My mom’s a nurse, my grandmother’s a nurse, I have uncles and aunts who are nurses.”  

After earning his associate degree in nursing, Moore began working as a clinical nurse in the intensive care unit at Mercy Health – Lorain Hospital. He also moved right into LCCC’s University Partnership with Ohio University and earned his bachelor of science in nursing by fall 2022. And this fall, he started working toward his master of science in nursing – nursing leadership at Case Western Reserve University.

Most weeks, Moore works three 12-hour shifts in the ICU. His days off belong to Lake Erie Drones. And he had to jump through several regulatory hurdles, involving both the Federal Aviation Association and the Ohio Department of Agriculture, to get to this point.  

“It was a pretty big leap of faith,” he says. “It was a big upfront investment, and I needed to appeal for all these different certifications.” 

Up and running

This fall was Moore’s first with an operational business. And he’s been busy.  

“I’ve found steady business in Lorain County, and we’re providing a service that our farmers are very happy with,” Moore says. “And I’ve met with a lot of the landowners, too.” 

Moore says some of those generational farmers and landowners have become more than customers. They’re now mentors. And they’re excited to see someone as young as Moore taking an interest in agriculture.   

“There are a lot of people moving out of farming, for one reason or another, and today’s farmers are acutely aware of that,” Moore says. “So many have brought me under their wing and provided me with resources.” 

They’ve also provided Moore referrals within their close-knit network. And he hopes their discussions continue to include positive remarks about his business, because as the spraying season winds down, Moore is gearing up for the next phase: seeding cover crops.  

“Cover crops align with sustainable farming,” Moore says. “It helps with soil conservation, erosion reduction, and water quality.”  

Equipped with a seed spreader and having conducted preliminary tests, Moore views this as a natural extension of Lake Erie Drones and its agricultural solutions. 

“This is just the beginning,” he says.

About the Author

Leigh Keeton
Leigh Keeton is a writer/project coordinator at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio.