SA researchers create cutting edge pest technology

A new state-of-the-art weapon in the fight against agricultural pests and diseases developed by South Australian researchers has been launched. 

Utilising South Australian research, engineering and software expertise, the $21 million iMapPESTS Sentinel was showcased at Tuesday’s Hart Field Day.

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said South Australia continues to look to technology to address challenges in agriculture.

“The iMapPESTS Sentinel is ground breaking technology proudly developed and led by researchers from the South Australian Research and Development Institute in conjunction with local businesses, Dematec Automation and Data Effects,” said Minister Whetstone.

“The project is part of a $21 million Commonwealth Government initiative led by Horticulture Innovation with support from 17 partner organisations across a broad range of industries from grains to viticulture, and horticulture to forestry.   

“Combining specialised air sampling equipment and automation technology in a single high-tech mobile surveillance unit, the iMapPESTS Sentinel is a key element in a national project to provide greater data to producers to combat pests and diseases.

“The Sentinel features smart automation applied to trapping equipment, sourced from project partners in the United Kingdom, purpose-built to capture airborne spores and insects.

“The Sentinel is an outstanding example of AgTech created by South Australian researchers and tech businesses designed to strengthen farmers’ ability to better manage pests, with the goal of improving productivity to meet our growth targets.”

Dematec Automation Chief Executive Officer David Hart said building the Sentinel has been a unique and exciting opportunity.

“Dematec’s control system automates and controls the Sentinel itself, and we’ve brought our best engineering automation expertise to this project,” said Mr Hart.

“The Sentinel is self-contained, and while carrying highly sensitive instrumentation and technology, has to be robust to endure the elements out on site for weeks at a time.

“For example, we’ve built in sensors to automatically retract a six-metre insect trap and safely pack away the device when severe weather is detected, then the system extends the trap to resume operation when high winds have calmed.

“We’ve developed robotic systems on each device in the Sentinel, controlled by an on-board computer that enable intelligent sampling according to pre-set parameters of time, temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction.”

Data Effects Research Director Dr Andrew Baker said the management of the samples and data after collection was critical.

“The Sentinel’s data needs to be identifiable, trackable, and then accessible for useful analyses,” said Dr Baker.

“The cloud-based platform that Data Effects has developed for the Sentinel iMapPESTS project means data about physical samples, and virtual samples of on-farm conditions – from spores to climatic environmental data − are barcoded and traceable through every step, securely transferred from the field to the laboratory and on to farmers and land managers.

“We’re able to combine the Sentinel’s field data with lab data, and data from third parties such as other project partners or the Bureau of Meteorology, to pull together a rich data resource from which we can produce accessible outputs such as graphs and dashboards.”

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