Growers trying to banish insects without carpet bombing their crops with chemicals face almost impossible hurdles.
The most common method, integrated pest management, involves first capturing insects in traps scattered around the fields then removing the traps, counting the bugs and recording the tiny deaths. Only after monitoring the insect population over time can growers decide where to spray insecticide.
In a Big Data world, this approach doesn’t make sense, which is why Spensa Technologies Inc., a start-up out of Purdue University, developed a high-tech alternative. Meet the Z-Trap, an insect-trapping device that stuns pests with a charged electronic metal grid, identifies species based on signals they emit and wirelessly reports its findings to a base station. The data is funneled into an online platform where growers can quickly analyze trends and access their pest-capturing history. Right now, the Z-Trap is available as a prototype for $3,000 and will go on sale in 2014.