ID fingerprint technology detects specific pests, helps farmers reduce dependence on chemicals

High-tech capture helps growers deal with invasive pests and reduce dependence on chemicals.

The Fly Trap uses the same fingerprint ID as a smartphone to detect specific pests and is designed to help manage the Australian fruit fly.

The device uses a traditional lure to attract the fruit fly into the chamber, but what happens when the insect pest is inside distinguishes it from the typical fly trap.

Nancy Schelhorn, CEO of Rapid Aim, the company behind the sensor trap, says the insect enters the traps and interacts with the sensors.

“And this is the size, shape and behavior of the insect, which we then write algorithms to identify and detect it, to find out if this is what we are interested in, or to separate it for the insects that enter the device to who don’t care, “she said.

“The information is then streamed in real time to growers on their mobile app so they can see exactly what is happening to pests on their farm.”

The data collected can be used to target specific areas with fruit fly crops.(Delivered)

Pest control technology

David De Paoli uses the sensor system to capture hot peppers at his Bundaberg farm in Queensland.

“I love technology,” said Mr De Paoli.

Photo of a smiling man in front of the farm.
David De Paoli started growing and exporting hot peppers 25 years ago.(ABC landline: Courtney Wilson)

AustChilli is the largest hot pepper farm in the country and one of the largest suppliers of perishable hot peppers and avocados to Southeast Asia.

But growing crops in Bundaberg comes with some challenges. The Queensland fruit fly is an invasive pest that is very active in the area.

Mr De Paoli said the introduction of sensor traps in his agricultural business had significantly changed pest management practices.

“We can see them in real time; every time a fly flies through a trap, we know, “Hey, there’s 10 in this corner, but there’s 50 in this corner.”

This information allows the manufacturer to guide where and when to spray for fruit flies. The hope is that knowledge can reduce the use of chemicals, as its application can be more precise.

Photo of a man growing hot red pepper.
Mr De Paoli says he loves technology and how it helps keep his farm on the road.(ABC landline: Courtney Wilson)

“They never attack the whole field,” Mr De Paoli said.

Hand traps are not accurate

Traditionally, fruit flies have been controlled by manual capture and observation, a system that was both time consuming and not very accurate.

Isaiah Gala, an agronomy assistant at AustChilli Farm, says they used to use pheromone containers to attract pests.

Red hot red pepper in a plastic box.
AustChilli is the largest hot pepper farm in Australia.(ABC landline: Courtney Wilson)

“Now we can just click on the trap and Google Maps appears and shows us exactly where it is.

“For example, last week we had 53 fruit flies on our farm in Douglas and we had 141 mm of rain, and that number has tripled since then.”

The science behind becoming a better farmer may start small, but it has the potential to make a big impact.

Ms. Schelhorn says a lot of chemical sprays are being lost.

“In the United States, about 230 jumbo jets full of pesticides are sprayed into the landscape each year,” she said.

A photo of a woman smiling in a science lab.
Nancy Shelhorn is a former CSIRO scientist who specializes in insect ecology.(ABC landline: Courtney Wilson)

Detection of other types of pests

Beyond fruit flies, technology captures and models behavior to provide data to detect other types of pests.

“For most growers, there are usually one to three key pests that cost them the most money,” Ms Schelhorn said.

The next step in the study is to go beyond capture – to make the pest work to kill others of its kind.

Photo of hot peppers on a bush in a paddock in Bundaberg.
Growing hot peppers is a big business in Bundaberg, Queensland.(ABC landline: Courtney Wilson)

“With our new Generation 2 product, we are no longer catching pests,” Ms Schelhorn said.

“What happens is that the pest enters, it is attracted by the bait. Once inside the camera, he begins to capture biocontrol. Biocontrol can be a spores, a spores of fungi.

It is expected to be launched in the Lockyer Valley in Queensland this October and the first target is the invasive and extremely expensive autumn army worm.

“So we’re very excited because it’s already biodigital,” Ms. Schelhorn said.

“We are on a mission to reduce the chemical intensity of agriculture, and we know we have the technology and the solutions and the new paradigm shift that allows us to do that.”

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