With pest animals estimated to cost the Australian economy up to $1 billion a year, CSIRO scientists have developed a humane new technology that could help save Australian farmers’ crops and livelihoods.
After successfully scaring away elephants from farms and crops in Africa, scientists are trialling the Vertebrate Pest Detect-and-Deter (VPDaD) technology in Australia against pests such as ducks, cockatoos, rabbits, wild dogs and more, starting in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley.
“Ultimately we want to scale-up the technology and roll it out across Australia,” CSIRO scientist Dr Ash Tews said.
The technology works by detecting and identifying animals as they come close to farms or crops, and emitting a tailored series of sounds and lights to humanely scare them away before they cause damage.
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 local agribusinesses, aiming to help primary industries facing problems with an array of native pests.
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.
The VPDaD technology consists of a motion sensor device, and a collection of cameras that can pick up images and heat signatures of an animal, with lights and sounds that function as the deterrent for pests.
In addition to looking at how animals respond to perceived threats, the scientists are analysing deterrent effectiveness and animal movements over seasons.