Solar-powered trap hunts what bugs crops

Insects pose for mugshots and get identified in a digital lineup before the scouting call gets made to the farmer

The iScout devices can be placed in any field that has an LTE cellular signal. These are solar powered, which reduces maintenance.

Glacier FarmMediaMetos Canada offers remote monitoring of crop pests with a lineup of IOT (internet of things)-based devices, called iScout.

Why it matters: Crop monitoring tools can help farmers protect fields and avoid yield-damaging pest incursions.

The devices are built by Austrian technology firm Pessl Instruments, which sells a roster of wireless sensors and devices, including remote field monitoring, weather monitoring and forecasting, water and nutrient management, as well as disease and insect monitoring.

Guy Ash of Metos Canada said the automated insect detection system enables producers to quickly react to insect problems.

“Farmers are extremely busy with lots of things going on in numerous fields to look after. This provides timely information for a given field’s geographic area that allows you to react and help preserve your yield quality and crop development,” Ash said.

“It’s a small window (to react to pests), but there’s still a good return on investment for it.”

The iScout devices can be placed in any field that has an LTE cellular signal. The units are solar powered, which reduces upkeep.

Inside the traps is a sticky plate that’s monitored by multiple high-resolution cameras. The images are sent through the cellular network to the Metos FieldClimate platform, which automatically detects pests.

Users can then view the images and analyses on a mobile app or through the web interface.

“Within the server there’s artificial intelligence that does insect classification, so you can set it up to classify a particular pest you want, or use chosen ones from the directory. The artificial intelligence can be trained over time by deselecting errors and selecting ones that it misses,” Ash said.

Two or three images are taken and sent into the FieldClimate platform every day, which Ash said is plenty to understand the population dynamics of insects in your fields at various geographic locations.

“It allows you to really target your scouting activities, your boots on the ground for where the problem is, and then make your decision on what you’re going to do about that particular problem,” Ash said.

He said the system is useful to monitor many different pests and that it is especially useful on fields located a large distance away.

“If it’s (the field) 30 or 50 kilometres away, you don’t have to drive to have a look. The other thing is you as a group of farmers could share the data,” Ash said.

“You can have a device and a number of farmers can access that data for that area.”

The maintenance schedule for traps depends on the which service model the customer purchased, as well as the insect populations in the field.

“If you buy the hardware outright then it’s your responsibility to change those plates and pheromones,” Ash said.

“If you buy it on subscription there are maintenance programs that take care of some of that stuff, in terms of upkeep, changing the sticky plates and pheromones. It (changing sticky plates and pheromones) can be as often as once a week, or sub weekly in a very, very busy season if the insect population is quite severe in an area.”

There are four iScout traps available.

The iScout Pheromone uses an insect glue and pheromone lures, iScout Fly is a feeding lure trap, iScout Bug is a pyramid trap that has a bottom side entry but no exit, and iScout Color is designed to monitor sticky traps of different colours.

Ash said the Pheromone and Fly models are the most useful for broad-acre crop production.

A new feature available with these traps is insect forecast modelling based on computer algorithms that use environmental conditions including temperature, humidity and precipitation to assess insect risk.

The iScout costs about $1,000 per year on a three-year contract, which includes the hardware, the dashboard that accesses the website and apps, alerts, an online learning portal, cellular connectivity with some limits on data, and the analysis including a time lapse of the information.

Glacier FarmMedia, which owns Farmtario, has an agreement with Metos Canada to market and support the company’s services.

This article was originally published at The Western Producer.

About the author

Glacier FarmMedia staff

Robin Booker is a reporter with Glacier FarmMedia.

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