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Drones to spread ladybirds

Pests are to be fought with ladybirds and mites instead of pesticides. The University of Southern Denmark is to develop an ecodrone that will combat pests in completely new ways.

Drones are to be deployed in the fight against pests munching their way through strawberry plants. With their tanks filled with ladybirds, predatory mites and parasitic wasps, the drones will fly over fields and spread the insects precisely where pests are ravaging the crops.

- The challenge is to develop a spreader that can spread the insects without destroying them. They need to eat the pests before they themselves end up as bird food. To be sure of an even spreading, I need to gauge the airflow under the drone.

Associate Professor Søren Wiatr Borg from the Institute of Technology and Innovation is well underway with developing the drone's spreader to ensure that the insects land safely. But working with living insects isn't easy.

- Predatory mites eat each other if they don't have anywhere to hide, so we cover them in vermiculite, which is natural soil improving agent, so that they have a place to hide, explains Søren Wiatr Borg.

Cheaper organic goods
Biological plant protection is being used to great success in many nurseries, where different insects are used to fight pests. But the EcoDrone project, led by SDU and the company Ecobotix, will make it possible to use nature's own weapons outside of greenhouses.

- It's about new thinking and developing technical tools that make it easier to avoid pesticides in the future, says Centre Leader Brad Beach from SDU UAS Centre and continues:

- One of our ambitions is for the ecodrone to make it easier to grow organic food products. It will mean lower prices on organic food and also that we can better keep up with the growing international demand for organic products.

Reduced use of pesticides

It is not only ecologists who will benefit from the ecodrone, because the drone could be an important tool in reaching political targets for reducing the use of pesticides and promoting organic production.

- Previously, it has been difficult and far too expensive to use nature's own pest control methods on large areas, but by using the drones it is now possible, says Søren Wiatr Borg and elaborates:

- First and foremost, it will be strawberry fields, fruit plantations and Christmas trees we will concentrate our project on, because there is a large yield in a small area, but in the long term it is quite conceivable that the drones could fight pests in large cornfields.


Project title: Development of ecodrone for effective spreading of beneficial organisms (EcoDrone)

Project participants: Ecobotix ApS, Aarhus University, EWH BioProduction ApS, University of Southern Denmark, Bakkegården Gyrstinge, Gartneriet PKM A/S, Gram og Nybøl Godser A/S, Harndrup Skov Frugtplantage, Hunsballe ApS, PS Trading A/S, Svishave Frugtplantage, Danske Maskinstationer & Entreprenører.

Project period: 01.01.2016 - 31.12.2017

Amount granted: 8,356,126 DKK from GUDP - the Danish Agrifish Agency

Editing was completed: 30.05.2016