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RapidAIM agtech offers new approach for pest control

Technology & Data

RapidAIM is an innovative pest detection tool that puts power into the hands of growers – literally.  

As part of the APAL Forum feature on R&D and cutting-edge technology, CEO and co-founder Dr Nancy Schelhorn’s presented on the current use and future capabilities of RapidAIM. 

RapidAIM has developed from a CSIRO project to a commercial venture, partnering with grower groups and regions for large-scale pest-detection programs and providing ‘another tool in the tool-box’ for on-farm pest management.  

“There’s a stigma attached to fruit fly among growers, but fruit flies don’t recognise farm boundaries,” Dr Schellhorn said. “Area-wide management from the ground up is an exciting social part of RapidAIM’s pest surveillance and management capabilities.” 

Key points:

  • The RapidAIM ‘smart sensor’ has a fruit fly lure, and the pest is detected by ‘reading’ movement – a ‘fruit fly fingerprint’ 
  • The IoT trap works on a narrowband connection, meaning it transfers data from the field without broadband coverage 
  • The data is communicated in real-time to the user via an app  
  • Data trends over time can help users identify the location and activity of fruit fly 
  • A grid placement can provide a view of persistent hotspots and problem areas 

“Real-time alerts from individual traps enable growers to act in a more timely manner if required,” Dr Schellhorn said. “It gives them peace of mind that they can minimise produce damage, limit quality control requirements during the packing process and risk of requiring fumigation.” 

According to Dr Schellhorn, the broader use of RapidAIM in different regions and industries – whether in communities, individual farms or grower collaboration – will allow the RapidAIM team to improve the product and data services further. 

Future improvements include: 

  • Developing a pest ‘forecast’ based on shared data across regions, detecting seasonal trends and local alerts 
  • Identifying the pain points and pests for RapidAIM expansion – such as coddling moth for apple and pear growers 

Insecticides and biologicals

Farmers can input their chemical spray schedule into the RapidAIM app to track effectiveness, measured against fruit fly activity.  

“When you can see granular data about what’s working, chemicals become a more precise, targeted and efficient tool for specific areas rather than ‘insurance’,” Dr Schellhorn said.  

Some of RapidAIM’s customers, such as AustChilli, are using it to further sustainability goals and support biological pest control. As limiting the use of chemicals is key to exporting into certain overseas markets, innovative pest control solutions can open up market access. 

“It can be a big transition to using the newer, softer biologicals growers are less familiar with,” Dr Schellhorn said. “RapidAIM can help growers manage a practical transition to a ‘digital-biological’ pest control approach.”  

Flies beyond borders

For two years, RapidAIM has been deployed as one of the tools for the Fruit Fly Prevention Program in the Yarra Valley. The RapidAIM traps, along with other QFF surveillance tools, are located on both public and private land in the Yarra Valley, based on ongoing risk assessments. 

Bronwyn Koll with the RapidAIM device in 2019

Regional Co-ordinator Bronwyn Koll said the real-time automated tracking and notification contributes to the specific aim of the program in preventing establishment of Queensland Fruit Fly in the first place. 

“All trapping is useful to share in an area-wide management program for a pest, including regular manual inspections as well as real-time automated services,” Bronwyn said. 

“Sharing this knowledge about a pest is a really effective way of beating it, especially QFF. All data is shared collaboratively, and remains owned by the landholder. It can be shared with another group the landholder has an agreement with but when data sources are combined and collated they can be de-identified and managed by the Regional Coordinator. 

The speed of the QFF detection notification means that it I can promptly concentrate surveillance activities to the site and surrounds. I can promote landholders to take either preventative or corrective actions that they may not have otherwise taken in a time frame that is ahead of the pest invasion. This is what leads to the product’s edge – a week is a long time in the insect world.” 

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