Agtech drives pesticide use efficienciesTechnology & Data
Insecticides play a critical role in producing the high quality, great tasting and looking fruit that all of us want. However, global mega trends are challenging what and how insecticides are used. Eating for wellness, environmental concerns about bee health, decline of songbirds, 75 per cent decline of flying insects across several European countries, and growth in the biopesticide market (compound annual growth of 16 per cent) are trends associated with the downsides of insecticides. The culmination of these three mega trends is resulting in consumer-driven change and retailer action.
Large retailers in the EU and USA, Aldi, Costco, Whole Foods, Lidl, Coop, are placing new demands on their grower suppliers by setting thresholds for pesticide residue levels 66 per cent lower than the Government standard, and they are asking suppliers to find alternatives to the most widely used insecticides; neonicotinoids and chlorpyrifos. The EU saw new zero- and low-residue branded fruits and vegetables first launched in late 2017; Carrefour launched the first zero-residue pear in Belgium. These labels are growing at a rate far greater than the suggested five per cent of market share. As one example, the French-owned Spanish-based Bonduella runs 130,000 ha of crops across the world and its zero-residue sweet corn took 10 per cent of the market share in the first year.
There are massive challenges and risks to meeting these new demands, and this is where new technology and practices can support growers to reduce risk while delivering the products into new markets. Across Australia, fruit producers are known for high compliance with food safety standards and embracing technologies that increase operating efficiency and reduce costs. Opportunities to bundle new technologies like reliable, real-time, pest monitoring, microbial and biological insect control, selective treatment of areas using drone technology (for conventional chemistry and biopesticides), and validation that control is working, will reduce risk, increase efficiencies, and reduce costs. Importantly it may open new markets for producers. This is where RapidAIM Pty Ltd, a new Australian Ag Tech Company, comes in.
The first product RapidFLY targets Australia’s two main fruit flies Queensland Fruit Fly (Qfly; available now) and Mediterranean Fruit Fly (Medfly: coming soon), and is a game changer. Growers know when and where to act and can have confidence in their fruit fly management. FlyRT, fruit fly regional alerts, is the area-wide product that allows communities to drive their area-wide pest management.
The team have combined their knowledge of insect pest ecology with sensor technology to provide real-time fruit fly detection straight into the hands of growers, and communities. The sensors work by detecting the “behavioural fingerprints” of fruit flies. Once a fly enters a trap, it is identified as a fruit fly and its location is communicated to an end user through an easy-to-use mobile phone app. The first trials of the RapidAIM technology, funded by CSIRO ON Program through the National Innovation and Science Agenda grant, started in 2017 in Shepparton, Victoria, with 16 growers and the horticulture service provider IK Caldwell. The trial grew to a national project, funded through the Agriculture Competitive White Paper, where the technology was deployed across five fruit-growing regions, and the RapidFLY app was placed in the hands of 65 end users including growers, and State Biosecurity Officers. A RapidFLY and FlyRT commercial service offering is now available in some regions and will be available across the country starting February 2020. The team is currently developing RapidMOTH for application to codling moth monitoring. Codling moth and fruit fly alerts on the RapidAIM mobile app will be a game changer for pest management for apple and pear growers throughout Australia.
RapidAIM wants to hear about your Fruit Fly monitoring needs. Contact us via the website: www.rapidaim.io
RapidAIM insect sensing technology was developed by the CSIRO, and is exclusively licensed to RapidAIM Pty Ltd
Acknowledgement: The project was funded through the Agriculture Competitive White Paper, the Government’s plan for stronger farmers and a stronger economy’.
About the author:
Dr Nancy Schellhorn
RapidAIM Pty Ltd