Aussie fruit-fly tech gets $1m aid

Tom ZaunmayrThe West Australian
VideoA fledgling Australian tech company has attracted funding from the CSIRO to help tackle fruit fly, a pest costing our growers hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

A new weapon in the fight against fruit fly has gained a leg up with a $1.25 million boost from the CSIRO.

Founded by CSIRO researchers Nancy Schellhorn, Darren Moore, and Laura Jones, RapidAIM provides real-time fruit fly detection and monitoring to help Australian producers battle against the devastating pest, which costs Australia more than $300 million every year.

Main Sequence Ventures, which manages the CSIRO Innovation Fund, is making the $1.25m investment in the start-up, which successfully trialled the technology with fruit producers in Victoria last year.

RapidAIM chief executive Ms Schellhorn said existing fruit fly monitoring relied solely on manual trap checking.

“Growers rely on weather radar and take action accordingly, but until now they haven’t had any pest ‘radar’ to support them against pests like fruit fly,” she said.

“(This) limits the scale and depth of available information and costs valuable resources.

“Our new technology can reduce the time spent checking traps by more than 35 per cent, and provides an immediate picture of fruit fly presence in specific locations to enable a rapid response for control.” Fruit flies lay eggs in fruits and vegetables as they ripen.

The hatched maggots ruin the produce from the inside, creating huge losses for producers and costing millions in clean-up efforts.

The RapidAIM system uses low-powered smart sensors to detect insects like fruit fly from their characteristic movements.

The sensors, which can be placed by the thousands, send data to the cloud, giving producers real-time data flow of the pest on their farms and regions through a linked mobile app.

CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall said RapidAIM could make a huge difference to growers around the world.

“Taking technology developed inside of CSIRO, turned into a new Aussie start-up through our innovation program and the CSIRO Innovation Fund, is a great example of accelerating science solutions to deliver real-world solutions,” he said.

“As an accomplished scientist, entrepreneur and now CEO, Nancy Schellhorn is an inspiration to our next generation of women STEM leaders.”

Ms Schellhorn said the technology could lead to more targeted use of insecticide and other crop-protection measures.

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