Fruit fly fund­ing

Shepparton News - Country News - - FRONT PAGE - — Myles Peter­son and Ash Wi­toslawski

Fre­quently sighted in the re­gion in re­cent months, Fed­eral Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter David Lit­tleproud re­turned last week with an­other fund­ing an­nounce­ment: $16.9 mil­lion to im­prove fruit fly man­age­ment.

Mooroopna or­chardist Peter Hall hosted the min­is­ter and de­clared the an­nounce­ment ‘‘very pos­i­tive’’.

‘‘This is a crit­i­cal is­sue for peo­ple who are ex­port­ing fruit,’’ Mr Hall said.

‘‘Pro­to­col mar­kets are al­ways con­cerned about fruit fly so the fact the gov­ern­ment are sup­port­ing sur­veil­lance pro­grams and treat­ment pro­grams, that’s the sort of thing our mar­kets are want­ing to see.

‘‘(China) have the ca­pac­ity to make ex­po­nen­tial in­vest­ments vi­able in Aus­tralia. If you can get those se­cured and make sure your pro­to­col mar­kets are there, you’re talk­ing hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in po­ten­tial ex­ports.’’

Mr Lit­tleproud said the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment would look to work with its state coun­ter­parts to se­cure an ad­di­tional $1.85 mil­lion in fund­ing.

‘‘Let’s have a co-or­di­nated ap­proach that works on the sci­ence and rigour and in terms of con­sis­tency in pre­vent­ing and erad­i­cat­ing fruit fly,’’ Mr Lit­tleproud said.

The pack­age is de­signed to de­liver high­tech fruit fly man­age­ment us­ing new tech­nol­ogy that gives ad­vanced, real-time warn­ing of the pres­ence of fruit fly through RapidAIM tech­nol­ogy.

Af­ter work­ing on the is­sue for about eight years at CSIRO, Nancy Schell­horn and her col­leagues Laura Jones and Dar­ren Moore de­cided to cre­ate their own start-up, with in­vest­ment from Main Se­quence Ven­tures and the Fed­eral De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources.

The trio vis­ited Shep­par­ton last week, rolling out the smart traps to 120 prop­er­ties across the re­gion with mon­i­tor­ing sup­port from lo­cal agro­nomic busi­ness I K Cald­well.

RapidAIM pro­vides real-time data through ul­tra-low power sen­sors which cap­ture the unique be­havioural ‘fin­ger­prints’ spe­cific to fruit fly, which is sent to cloud tech­nol­ogy and onto a mo­bile app.

Dr Schell­horn said farm­ers could then re­ceive alerts on their de­vices or open the app for de­tails.

Cur­rently in the first stage of the roll-out, she said they were con­duct­ing a num­ber of tests which will con­tinue un­til April or May next year.

With the peak fruit fly pe­riod ap­proach­ing in Fe­bru­ary, the roll-out will in­clude an ex­tra 10 to 20 ur­ban prop­er­ties and po­ten­tially 25 more grow­ers in the near fu­ture.

Dr Schell­horn said the tech­nol­ogy had po­ten­tial to be rolled out on a com­mer­cial scale in about 10 months, af­ter ex­ten­sive test­ing.

‘‘Grow­ers can see this has real value and we feel like our sci­ence can sup­port them.’’

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