Tag Archives: CSIRO innovation fund

pest monitoring

New pest monitoring start-up takes aim at fruit flies

Main Image: The team of scientists behind the RapidAIM pest monitoring system: Dr Nancy Schellhorn, Laura Jones, and Darren Moore.

RapidAIM is a real-time pest monitoring system which detects the presence and location of insect pests, cutting down the need for manual monitoring. The data service start-up was founded by agro-ecologist and entomologist Dr Nancy Schellhorn, electronics engineer Darren Moore and research technician Laura Jones within CSIRO. The research scientists have brought together their diverse skill sets across pest management, environmental monitoring and prototype development to develop a next-generation pest monitoring system.

Monitoring for fruit flies and other insect pests is presently done manually. Globally, millions of traps are monitored in crop production every 7-14 days. Manual monitoring is expensive and time-consuming, but essential for managing pest outbreaks. Fruit flies are a particularly costly biosecurity hazard, and are responsible for the yearly loss of US$30 billion of fruit and vegetable production.

Dr Schellhorn and the RapidAIM co-founders spoke to government biosecurity officers, growers and crop advisors to pinpoint the exact information the sector needed to improve pest monitoring strategies. “These insects are small, reproduce quickly and are highly mobile between habitats, so understanding their location and when they show up is pretty critical to delivering sustainable pest control,” explains Dr Schellhorn.

RapidAIM have developed the hardware and software for a grid of smart insect traps which detect the presence of insects and send the data to the cloud for analytics. An alert is then generated for end users through the mobile-linked app. “We use a novel, low-power sensor that provides a behavioural fingerprint of the insects, with real-time information about pest locations,” says Dr Schellhorn. The result is a map of thousands of traps providing accurate surveillance of insects. This helps crop growers respond rapidly in the occurrence of pest outbreaks.

The company has since received a $1.25 million investment from Main Sequence Ventures through the Coalition Government’s CSIRO Innovation Fund, and has also received support from CSIRO’s ON program.

RapidAIM is currently trialling a Beta version of the smart traps in five locations across Australia, working with some of the biggest fruit growers and state agencies, commercial partners and horticultural providers. The trials will compare the automated traps to the currently used manual traps in locations in SA, WA, NSW, VIC and Tasmania.

“We want to work closely with our potential customers so that we deliver a product of value’, says Dr Schellhorn.

The co-founding scientists are enjoying the challenge of bringing their vision to market. “We’re committed to making an impact with our science,” says Dr Schellhorn. “We believe that being involved in the full value chain of understanding the problem and the technology development is critical.”

Dr Schellhorn believes that “talking to potential customers was key in our current technology. The process has been a challenge, but it’s been great learning.”

– Larissa Fedunik

CSIRO innovation fund

CSIRO Innovation Fund kicks off

Companies developing new ways to diagnose cancer, platforms to connect work and learning, next generation WiFi chips and quantum computing firmware are among the first to receive investment from Main Sequence Ventures, manager of the $200 million CSIRO Innovation Fund.

Acting Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, says the launch of Main Sequence Ventures is an important step to ensure we can further harness Australian innovation to create new enterprises and the jobs of tomorrow.

“As part of the Turnbull Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, the CSIRO Innovation Fund is designed to ensure our world-class research can be turned into the jobs and economic growth of the future,” says Minister Cash.

Main Sequence Ventures will support new spin-out and start-up companies, and SMEs engaged in the translation of research generated in the Australian publicly funded research sector.

Main Sequence Ventures’ first investments in Q-Ctrl, Intersective, Morse Micro and Maxwell MRI are expected to create more than 60 new jobs.

CSIRO Chief Executive Larry Marshall says Australia has never been short of great ideas, but the value is rarely captured domestically. Australia’s scientists are world leaders, but investing in science driven innovation is hard – it needs the horsepower of Australia’s national science agency behind it.

“Science can drive change across the economy despite global disruption, improve our nation’s health and sustainability and make business globally competitive.

“This is a team Australia effort, with the Fund investing in the best ideas across the research community. This will help Australia better capture the value of science, deliver impact and drive the jobs and industries of the future,” says Dr Marshall.

Main Sequence Ventures is led by veteran venture capitalist Bill Bartee along with a team of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs with extensive experience in science and technology.

“Our first investments are giving us a great start in backing ambitious entrepreneurs to build important and growing companies,” says Mr Bartee.

“Q-Ctrl has the potential to provide the firmware framework for quantum computers, Morse Micro is building the next generation of WiFi chip, Intersective is using data science to better equip our workers for the future and Maxwell MRI is changing the way we detect and diagnose prostate cancer. 

“This is some of the best and most exciting research from the Australian innovation sector, and we look forward to working with them to realise their potential in the commercial market.

“We at Main Sequence Ventures know that this is only the beginning, and many more high-potential companies will be able to grow from our investments. We look forward to working with Australia’s deep tech founders to build epic companies.”

This information on the CSIRO Innovation Fund was first shared by CSIRO on 30 October 2017. 

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