It's hard to argue that pest scouting is often the most economical and environmentally friendly way to determine if a crop actually needs to be sprayed. It's also hard to argue that walking through crops, especially tall corn or knee-high soybeans to check traps is time-consuming, hard, hot, sweaty work. The net result is it seldom gets done in all, even in the most dedicated of organizations.
Johnny Park, Spensa Technologies, has developed a device which he believes can change that whole approach. His company is located in the Purdue Research Park.
His new development, the Z-Trap, traps insects. A lot of existing traps do that, you say – but then the Z-trap automatically detects the number of target insects in the trap and sends the data wirelessly to a grower's mobile phone or computer. If you've turned these duties over to a scouting firm, it could send the data to a scout or agronomist, who could then work with you to make a decision on whether to spray or not.
Park's background is in electrical and computer engineering, not entomology. But he's trying to apply his technology to help farmers solve a problem that has 'bugged' them for years – whether to just spray the field and be done with it, not spray at all, or make a crude attempt to count and quantify insects to determine if spraying should be the best choice or not.
The Z-Trap isn't shelf-ready yet, but two grants received from federal sources will help move it in that direction, Park hopes. One of his goals is to operate it on a battery pack half the size of the current pack for six months.
Stay tuned on this potential breakthrough: bug counts on your smartphone without ever leaving the office!