INNOVATION

CSIRO Scientists Fight Pests With The Modern Scarecrow

Pest animals cost the Australian economy $1 billion a year.

09/08/2017 11:38 AM AEST | Updated 09/08/2017 11:39 AM AEST
CSIRO
The VPDad uses light and sound to deter animal pests.

Pest animals cost the Australian economy an estimated $1 billion a year and they have major social, economic and environmental impacts that seriously affect Australia's livestock industries and the people who work in them.

Scientists at the CSIRO have developed a new technology that could alleviate some of the impacts of pests on Australian farms and it all comes down to the use of sound and light.

The technology is called the Vertebrate Pest Detect-and-Deter (VPDad) and it is currently being trialled in Queensland's Lockyer Valley to stop vertebrate pests -- animals with a backbone or spine -- including ducks, rabbits, wild dogs and cockatoos from destroying farms or crops.

The VPDad does the same job as a scarecrow, but in a modern way, and is designed to solve problems that exist in other animal deterrent technology.

"One of the interesting issues with existing deterrent technologies is that, not only do animals become desensitised to them, but smarter ones can even learn to use the deterrents as an indication of a food source, which is the opposite of their purpose," CSIRO scientist Dr Ash Tews said in a statement.

CSIRO
Researchers Dr Ash Tews and Dr Phillip Valencia with the VPDad.

The VPDad works therefore, by detecting animals as they come closer to farms or crops and then transmitting sounds and flashes of light that deters the animal from venturing any further onto the property.The use of sounds and lights ensures that the technology is dealing with the animals in a humane way.

The system also modifies the sounds and lights so that animals cannot adapt to the deterrents, meaning the technology has longevity.

"This allows the system to be more effective over long periods of time such as the key threat times during crop growing," Dr Tews said.

The technology has two elements, a motion sensor device and a collection of cameras that detect heat and take images of the animals. These have been developed so the device can classify animals based on the images the camera has stored.

The VPDad was trialled in Gabon, Africa against elephants that were causing problems for villagers. The CSIRO hopes the the technology can be used throughout the country.

"Ultimately we want to scale up the technology and roll it out across Australia," Tews said.

"The idea here is that we can adapt as necessary."

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