The business of scaring birds
Picture the scene: a quiet field, the sun beats down over carefully prepared crops. A flock of birds approaches, intent on digging in to a feast unwillingly provided by the farmer. To a crop farmer, that scenario is all too common, all too frightening and more often than not ends in a large financial loss.
But for a few Mid Canterbury locals, a vibrating thump and a laser light show could change that. Hayden Tasker, Steve MacKenzie and Gavin Malvay of Avian Solutions (AS) have created non-lethal methods of bird control.
‘‘We’re not killing them, ever. They’ve got every right to be here. They’re only a pest when they’re eating your money,’’ Tasker said.
The team’s Thunder Gun used a small spurt of ignited gas to produce a percussive wave from its tube. While noise guns were not new, AS said their product was lighter, more stable and more effective than other models.
‘‘What we have is more of a thump than a boom and that’s important. That’s what upsets the birds’ equilibrium,’’ Tasker said.
‘‘Birds have little internal gyros. We’ve seen it: the gun goes off and they just go wobbly as.’’
AS estimated farmers would need one gun per four hectares. They had sold more than 50 Thunder Guns, had a hire fleet of 12. Local support for the company had been great, Tasker said.
‘‘We wouldn’t be where we are without South Pacific Seeds (SPS).’’
He said SPS supported AS by buying their early product, allowing them to continue development of both the Thunder Gun and the Shedi laser box. The box used scattered lasers to deter birds from nesting in sheds.
It had been a hard road to get the Shedi to where it was at now, Tasker said, but estimated AS had now sold more than 100 of the devices.
‘‘I’m incredibly proud of that product. We’re doing something nobody said was possible,’’ Tasker said.
Tasker said he had seen the damage birds could do to crops first hand.
‘‘Four years ago I just thought ‘accepting them isn’t good enough’.
He said AS’ arms race against the birds of Mid Canterbury had left them with a new found respect for the feathered critters.
‘‘If anyone ever calls you a bird-brain, thank them and walk away. They’re pretty good problem solvers and they’re not to be trifled with.’’
Hayden Tasker and Steve MacKenzie with one of their Thunder Guns.