Hi-tech way to handle pests and large beasts

Just when you thought there was no hope. With pests and animals estimated to cost the Australian economy up to $1 billion a year, CSIRO scientists have developed a pest beating technology that could help save farmers’ crops and livelihoods.

After successfully scaring away pests as big as elephants from farms and crops in Africa, scientists are now trialling the Vertebrate Pest Detect-and-Deter (VPDaD) technology here. The first range of pests to feel the sting will be ducks, cockatoos, rabbits, wild dogs and more, starting in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley.The VPDaD technology consists of two systems: a motion sensor device, and a collection of cameras that can pick up images and heat signatures of an animal, with lights and sounds which function as the deterrent for pests.

“Ultimately we want to scale-up the technology and roll it out across Australia,” CSIRO scientist Dr Ash Tews said. “The idea here is that we can adapt as necessary.”

The technology works by detecting and identifying pests and animals as they come close to farms or crops, and emitting a tailored series of sounds and lights to scare them away before they cause damage.And where do they go once subjected to this horrifying experience, well down the road of course to a farm that doesn’t have VPDaD technology.

In Australia, vertebrate pest animals can cause many thousands of dollars’ damage in a single dining experience, causing real problems for farmers’ orchards, vegetable and cereal crops, and potentially for livestock during critical periods of development or birthing events.

In addition to the feasibility study underway in the Lockyer Valley, CSIRO is looking to partner with other local agribusinesses to continue testing and trialling the technology.

The previous trial was conducted in Gabon, Africa, where elephants can present a significant problem for villagers and agricultural communities, capable of destroying a community’s entire season’s worth of crops overnight.

In collaboration with agribusiness company Olam International, the VPDaD technology was successfully used to prevent elephants from destroying fruit crops.

So what hope does a little mouse have against the most magnificent scientific minds.