Australia: First mobile pest surveillance units to be deployed nationwide

September 10 , 2019

Australia will soon deploy numerous mobile pest surveillance units around the country in order to provide industries with vital information in real-time.

The first unit, known as a ‘sentinel’ - which forms part of a nationwide R&D initiative - will be unveiled at the Hart Field Day in South Australia on Sept. 17.

A total of eight sentinels will be constructed and deployed in different growing regions around Australia as part of a AUD$21m program called iMapPESTS: Sentinel Surveillance for Agriculture.

This project is led by Hort Innovation, through funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program, as well with support from 17 partner organizations.

The sentinel includes a suite of smart surveillance traps that capture airborne fungal spores and insects and reference them against information including GPS, temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction to provide real-time data on pests and diseases in a particular region.

That data will then be fed real-time into a cloud-based system for storage and downstream analysis, and will be distributed to producers, governments and industry groups in the form of immediate alerts, general reports and an iMapPESTS user dashboard to support fast, informed and collaborative decision-making.

The project aims to rapidly monitor and report the presence of priority pests and diseases to aid on-farm decision making across all plant industries of Australia, including grains, cotton, sugar, horticulture, wine and forestry.

The sentinel is being launched by South Australian Research and Development Institute researcher Dr Rohan Kimber.

The Hart Field Day will also feature the launch of the project website, as well as a grain grower advisory group to help inform the most effective way for the vast amount of data collected by the sentinel to be communicated back to the industry.

“Keeping Australia’s agricultural produce free from pests and diseases is an ongoing job that is vital to protecting the future viability of our primary production industries,” said Kimber.

“The sentinels will help enhance plant industries’ pest management, biosecurity and claims of area freedom by rapidly monitoring and reporting the presence or absence of high-priority pests and diseases in a region.

“The Hart Field Day is an opportunity to show industry how the sentinel units will work, discuss how the data generated by the units can be effectively communicated to growers and demonstrate how the units can improve farm productivity and reduce farm input costs.”

The project’s key audience is industries, growers and producers in the major cropping agricultural sectors of cotton, forest products, grain, horticulture, sugarcane, wine grape, and emerging plant crops.

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