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The challenge

Defending our produce against the fruit fly

A staggering 30 per cent of global crop production is lost due to pests each year. Among the different types of pests, the fruit fly's pesky offspring is responsible for its place as the world’s number one biosecurity threat for horticulture. Fruit flies lay eggs in fruits and vegetables as they ripen. The hatched maggots then ruin the produce from the inside, creating huge losses for farmers. In Australia alone, this costs our producers over $300 million each year.

To prevent these severe damages, producers need to continuously monitor for pests to understand when insecticides are needed. However, current monitoring systems rely on manually checking traps every one or two weeks, making it extremely slow and prone to error. As a result, 900 million tonnes of insecticide are used each year, 98 per cent of which does not reach the intended target.

Our response

Revolutionary real-time insect monitoring

A person holds a mobile phone up to a yellow device hanging in a tree. The screen of the phone shows a map with markers

Our scientists saw this as an opportunity to create a solution to help in the fight against the fruit fly. This eventually led to the creation of an innovative technology – RapidAIM.

RapidAIM is a real-time pest detection system that combines cutting edge hardware and software, with advanced biomimicry and AI pattern recognition to identify pests the moment they set foot on a farm.

It works by luring insects such as fruit flies into an enclosed trap, where they can be detected by sensors through their movements.

The sensors send this data to the cloud, giving producers real-time information of the pest's presence on their farm, through their mobile phones.

The results

A better world for producers

After completing the CSIRO ON Program, a spin-out company was formed alongside a founding team of CSIRO researchers, to take this fly-monitoring technology to the world. The company commercialised RapidFLY in January 2020 with customers including Australia's largest fruit producers, the Victorian and New South Wales state governments, Biosecurity New Zealand, and global crop protection company FMC.

Fruit producers have reported that using RapidAIM resulted in a significant increase in fruit quality because they were able to target their pest management at the times when the pest is active. The technology is estimated to reduce the cost of managing fruit fly outbreaks by 35 per cent, supporting government to deliver rapid outbreak response and faster control. In addition, the technology reduces the number of physical trips required to check manual traps – offering the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions. For example, a surveillance service in the Yarra Valley which covered a 200km2 region, resulted in a reduction of 47,148 kg of CO2 since January 2020.

RapidAIM has recently delivered regional fruit fly forecasts for the regions of Bundaberg and Greater Sunraysia. The RapidAIM regional radar provides five-day fruit fly forecasts, giving insights into where pests are emerging and where they are moving so producers can prepare.

Beyond fruit fly, the company has been evolving its insect sensing platform for the detection of the globally devastating codling moth. This has been trialled in the British Columbia province of Canada, with plans for a full commercial release in Australia in spring 2023. Built for ease of use in remote areas, producers only need to turn on the sensors, download the app and they have an advanced digital crop defence system up and running.

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