Fruit flies targeted in new Australian trial

A new trial is being launched to combat fruit flies in Australia.

The new tech start-up program, RapidAIM, is a real-time monitoring system using technology to detect the presence and location of fruit flies.

It has the support of the Australian government, with hopes it will potentially cut down the need for time-consuming manual monitoring.

Minister for industry, science and technology Karen Andrews said RapidAIM features new technology developed by CSIRO researchers and is backed by the government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA).

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“Fruit flies cost Australia’s horticulture sector around $300 million a year and can have a major impact on our fruit and vegetable growers,” said Andrews.

“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.

“The coalition is investing approximately $2.4 billion in growing Australia’s research, science and technology capabilities, as announced in this year’s budget, and this type of technology can help our farmers.

“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,” said Andrews.

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said the government also committed $1.35m to fund the trial of the automated smart traps as part of the RapidAIM system.

“The trial will compare the automated traps to the currently used manual traps in locations in SA, WA, NSW, Vic and Tasmania,” said Littleproud.

“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.

“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,” he said.

“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,” said Littleproud.

Developed by Dr Nancy Schellhorn, Darren Moore and Laura Jones during their time at CSIRO, the technology was successfully trialled 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.