Real-time monitoring technology to detect fruit flies and automated traps are part of a new trial in Australia designed to tackle a pest that is estimated to be costing the horticultural industry around AUD$300 million (US$213 million) annually.
The existence of two different fruit flies in Australia - Mediterranean fruit fly in Western Australia and Queensland fruit fly in the east - is a massive biosecurity hurdle for fruit and vegetable exporters.
The Federal Government has today announced a trial of the new start-up RapidAIM, harnessing technology developed by Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) researchers with support from the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA).
The real-time monitoring system detects the presence and location of fruit flies, and is expected to cut down the need for time-consuming manual monitoring. The government has also promised AUD$1.35 million (US$960,000) to fund a trial of automated smart traps as part of the RapidAIM system.
“RapidAIM’s innovations have the potential to transform the way we track and predict fruit fly movements, so our growers have the tools in future growing seasons to protect their crops more effectively," says Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews.
"The successful launch of this new company demonstrates the true benefits of investing in Australia’s world-leading research and innovation, supporting small businesses to solve real Australian problems."
Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud says the trial will compare the automated traps to the currently used manual traps in locations in South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
"The smart traps use lures to attract fruit flies. Females are lured in by food and males by chemicals they think will make them more attractive to female flies," he says.
“Sensors will be able to detect when a fruit fly is in the trap by their characteristic movements and send an alert to a grower’s mobile phone.
“This innovative technology could provide farmers access to real-time data about the presence of fruit fly on their farms and across their regions so they can respond to an outbreak quicker."
Developed by Dr Nancy Schellhorn, Mr Darren Moore and Ms Laura Jones during their time at CSIRO, the technology was successfully trialed by some of Australia’s biggest fruit producers in Victoria last year.
The researchers have now founded the company to help take their invention to growers around Australia in future fruit growing seasons.