The busi­ness of scar­ing birds

Selwyn and Ashburton Outlook - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - MATTHEW SALMONS

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.’’

MATTHEW SALMONS/STUFF

Hay­den Tasker and Steve MacKen­zie with one of their Thun­der Guns.

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