Thursday, May 19, 2022

First round of new pest tech out

The results of funding through the Predator Free 2050 project are starting to filter through to regions as new trapping and detection tech starts to take on a commercial head of steam.

Predator Free 2050 science director Dr Dan Tompkins says he was confident NZ could still hit its target with emerging technology.

The results of funding through the Predator Free 2050 project are starting to filter through to regions as new trapping and detection tech starts to take on a commercial head of steam.

Predator Free 2050 science director Dr Dan Tompkins is welcoming the first tranche of equipment that is the result of the original Provincial Growth Fund, which committed $19.5 million to pest control, of which $6.5m was specifically for developing new predator control technology.

The $6.5m was disbursed for investment in projects over three years, with 12 projects ultimately funded out of the 62 applications.

“The idea behind it was that we were to not only develop new tools for pest control, but to also build new businesses and expand job opportunities with the development of these tools,” Tompkins said.

The technology ranges from traps, toxins, lures to comms equipment, focused on improving or extending the capacity of some existing technologies.

The second tranche of funded projects are through the Jobs for Nature fund and are due to be announced in the coming months.

“At this point we cannot say too much about the second tranche, but the technology involves increased use of new and emerging technologies, including AI,” he said.

One of the successful first tranche-funded projects is Boffa Miskell’s low-cost, open-sourced automated system for dispensing lures to rodents that removes the labour costs involved in rebaiting long-lived traps in remote areas.

“Having something that is modulised and customised to different systems is currently our biggest challenge. There has been this big gap for a while that we have been developing in particular long-life tools,” he said. 

Dr Helen Blackie of Boffa Miskell said while you may have a detection system that works for 12 months, “the big problem is we have had no lures that last that long”.

A highly sensitive back country detection camera has also been developed by Zero Invasive Predators and is shortly due to start commercial production.

A thermal camera coupled with software and remote reporting can identify predators and provide real-time notifications of encounters.

Now in place in South Westland, it is expected to reduce the cost of remote camera detection sixfold from $60 a hectare a year to $10/ha/year.

“South Westland is currently our biggest single area of control, across 100,000ha,” he said.

He said he would like to see that area increase 10 times to one million hectare blocks across NZ by 2030, and remains optimistic such large areas can be achieved.

“We are now seeing some very effective tools being developed, many from just a relatively small amount of seed funding,” he said.

He said the export potential for such technology is significant, given the growing reputation NZ is getting for having a high level of expertise in managing pest populations in difficult landscapes.

The full range of projects funded through the PGF round can be viewed here.

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