Bird busters shoo menace from tractors
Birds are a pain for farmers, causing fires in tractors and making a mess in sheds. In a report from the Manawatu Standard Bird Buster designer Bryan Bate has a way to combat the problem
Birds look for a warm spot out of the weather to build their nests, so they target tractors and sheds as that special place to raise a brood. That’s a big problem for farmers, who have to deal with the mess in sheds and the risk of tractors catching on fire.
Enter Bryan Bate and his Bird Scarer, which is basically a loud alarm that hits some high decibels, an electronic box with a power adaptor, alarm system, wires and speakers/sirens.
Extra speakers can be attached for large shed coverage. Mr Bate designer, owner, marketer, manufacturer and office boy of his prod- uct works out of an office and workshop in Palmerston North.
He sells alarm systems to farmers from Northland to Southland. The hot spots are Canterbury, Waikato, Poverty Bay and Manawatu but there are plenty of other areas where sales have been made too. And the offenders? ‘‘Starlings and blackbirds are the worst, then there are sparrows and swallows.’’
The birds could start building a nest in a warm tractor engine in the hour the farmer or contractor might take off for lunch. There could be enough straw and dry grass to start a fire when the trac- tor was started again, said Mr Bate.
‘‘It is a big deal. Insurance companies had 59 burn-outs of tractors in October last year. A tractor can be between $60,000 and $200,000. One that burned out was only two weeks old.’’
Audible bird scarers work on a random rotation. Mr Bate says they will go for three seconds, then there is a six-second delay, then another three-second burst. After that they are on a 14-minute system in which the alarm sounds.
‘‘The randomness is the key to bird scarers working. Birds get used to a pattern otherwise.’’
Birds hate the noise. It is not so nice for people either but Mr Bate said the alarms were less piercing outside or in an implement shed. They sounded as loud as 120 decibels. ‘‘No bird would stand that.’’ They could be turned off easily when anyone was working in the shed. The alarms on tractors were less noisy and worked off voltage. As soon as the tractor was turned on and working, the alarm system stopped. It started of its own accord when the tractor was turned off.
‘ ‘ I started because both my brothers-in-law are farmers. I was going to China and asked what would be the key thing to look for. In unison, they said something to stop birds causing problems.’’
Mr Bate said there were alarm systems in the United States but they were super-sonic and affected other animals.
It got the former mechanic and used car salesman thinking about what kind of system could work in New Zealand. He decided he had the wherewithal to make one.
‘‘I work with a German guy who lives in the bush. He does the electronic boards and I do everything else. I get the speakers/ sirens from Taiwan but put everything together here.’’
Mr Bate puts an electronic board in a bird deterrent alarm box. He adds the speakers, the power adaptor and the wires, which are long enough to put the sirens up in the corner of an implement shed. All of that goes into a box, ready for sale.
‘‘I sell privately and most of the big rural companies have been in touch and also sell the bird deterrent systems.’’
Mr Bate said he was also talking to insurance companies in the hope that tractors with deterrent alarms might attract lower premiums, ‘ ‘ as some insurance companies did with house alarms. It might be that sort of idea. You pay a lower premium’’.
He has bird deterrent systems for tractors and sheds. ‘‘Implement sheds, cow sheds, woolsheds all those places that farmers want to keep bird nests out of. I also do systems that people put in boats and private aircraft and hangars.
‘ ‘ Some boats out at moorings also have bird scarers, which work at keeping the seagulls and shags off the boat.’’
Mr Bate said he had birdscaring systems for vineyards in the pipeline but there was six months of testing before that might be a goer. Then there is the problem of birds at airports, in parks, on sports grounds the list goes on. There has already been some interest in the system from Eden Park.
‘‘I am doing it all myself and just meeting demand. ‘ ‘ If it grows, I’ll have to employ someone.’’
Mr Bate is proud of the New Zealand-made bird scarer. He said he felt very responsible for getting it right. Mr Bate has been in the business of stopping nest building for two years. The first six months to a year were all about testing the system to see what worked.
‘‘It has been a work-inprogress since I started. You never stop learning. ‘‘The randomness factor is new. But I still have people who want the old, threesecond audible alarm, every 20 minutes.’’
That was Mr Bate’s first bird scaring system, and it still works.
‘‘Placing the sirens in the shed is important. We want them in the front corners, going back into the shed.
‘‘If a shed was 100 metres from the house, then the sound wouldn’t worry you.’’
He says he is advertising in a farming magazine once a month, and the success of the deterrent alarm system is mainly from word of mouth. ‘‘I do go the Central District Field Days in Feilding, and the National Agricultural Fieldays at Hamilton, and there has been enormous interest and sales, which have resulted from that.’’
He says such was the demand, he ran out of stock at the Mystery Creek Fieldays this year. Mr Bate paid ‘‘a reasonable amount of money’ to have the deterrent system patented. He was encouraged to do so by many people, including a lawyer who has a farm block.
There has also been international interest in his bird deterrent system but Mr Bate said he was making the bird scarer for the New Zealand market.
Long term, he doubted he would be able to keep up with demand and believed an option might be for some larger company to buy him out. ‘‘Okay, if someone buys the concept, I can go fishing.’’
BIRD BOTHER: Bryan Bate shows off his Bird Buster device.
624128205 UNWANTED: Starlings are among the species Bryan Bate is targeting.
CONSEQUENCE: A burnt out tractor after a bird in the engine started a fire.