Federal Government pours money into drowning out fruit fly

By Country News

Frequently sighted in the region in recent months, Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud returned last week with another funding announcement: $16.9million 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 $1.85million 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 high-tech 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.’’

—Myles Peterson and Ash Witoslawski