19 March 2022

New precision agriculture tools transforming Australian horticulture

New precision agriculture tools transforming Australian horticulture

This article was originally published on The Land.

Semios, the world's leading independent precision farming platform, is rapidly expanding operations in Australia, offering farmers a powerful new suite of cutting-edge tools for pest and crop management.

Semios entered the Australian market in August 2021 through the acquisition of local success story Agworld. Behind the scenes, Semios had been working for several years to bring its pheromone-based pest management offerings to the country, and has now begun rolling out products to its first clients in the Australian horticulture market.

"We'd been receiving a steady flow of inquiries into our services from the Australian horticultural sector," said Michael Gilbert, CEO of Semios.

"And so we started the APVMA approvals process for our pheromone products a number of years ago. We received the first approvals late last year and we're proud to now be offering our pheromone mating disruption technology in Australia."

Gilbert said more regulatory trials are also underway for the use of pheromone mating disruption in new insect and crop combinations. Currently, Semios is offering pheromone solutions for the control of Oriental Fruit Moth, and Codling Moth in pome, stone, and walnut crops with new solutions arriving in 2022 and 2023 for Carob Moth in almonds, and Light Brown Apple Moth in pome fruit and grapes.

Semios' approach to pest control is a far cry from traditional methods, which require growers and their horticulturalist to scout for specific insects or manually check orchard traps.

"While these techniques can provide a good snapshot of what's happening in the orchard, they don't show trend lines of insect populations," Gilbert said.

"Insect populations tend to build up to critical levels before getting controlled, causing damage to the crop. The synthetic pesticides used in traditional situations can also kill beneficial insects at the same time."

Semios' IoT-based technology monitors orchards and vineyards 24/7 through a network of weather stations, moisture probes and insect traps, providing constant data on in-field conditions. Its AI-powered database then turns that information into real-time insights and actions, equipping farmers with everything they need to make informed decisions quickly.

A prime example of this precision agriculture technology at work can be seen in management of codling moth. The company places pheromone dispensers throughout its customers' orchards, about two per hectare, which form an IoT network along with their monitoring equipment.

When the insect traps detect a certain number of codling moths at a specific stage in their life-cycle, the grower and horticulturist are notified.

The remotely controlled pheromone dispensers, placed strategically throughout the orchard, are maximising protection when the crop is most vulnerable.

"So, instead of letting a population build up to where they actually do damage to the crop, we monitor the population and create predictive trend lines throughout the season, allowing us to take action at the ideal time," Gilbert said.

At the same time, the company's exhaustive database of pest and crop information arms farmers in the field with powerful insights.

"Through the sheer amount of hectares of orchards and vineyards that we monitor around the world, we know what the critical time is to disrupt the mating cycle for that specific species of insect. After the pheromone has been dispensed, the insect population will collapse naturally and fruit or nut production is not affected."

Semios isn't just about pheromones, however. Its weather and soil moisture insights not only help in creating context for insect control, but also offer growers a standalone option of informing irrigation and other crop management decisions.

Instead of just feeding raw data to growers and their advisors, Semios' database, algorithms and software present insights in such a way that they are easily interpreted and turned into actions that improve results.

Semios is already servicing a number of orchards in Northern Victoria and the Southern Riverina, and has local staff based in the area, geared towards rapid expansions.

"We're committed to hiring local staff in order to provide the same excellent service to our growers in Australia as we do in the US and Europe," Gilbert said.

Semios will be featured at the Australian Nut Conference in Melbourne, alongside their Agworld team, from March 23-25.

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"Our team from Canada is looking forward to visiting and meeting Australian growers and horticulturalists now that the borders are open to travellers again," Gilbert said.

"We look forward to finally meeting face-to-face with Australian growers and advisors. If you are attending the conference, please stop by booth 3 - we'd love to learn more about your operation and how you think Semios and Agworld can help you improve results in your orchards."

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