Back in the day, farmers used straw-stuffed scarecrows to frighten off hungry birds. Here in 2017 — at least if you’re one particular tech-savvy blueberry farm in Oregon — there’s a cutting edge alternative: lasers.
Having last year lost more blueberries to birds than it had in any previous year, this summer the 168-acre farm installed six automated mounted laser guns, called Agrilaser Autonomics, manufactured by the Netherlands-based company Bird Control Group. The $10,000 Autonomic laser is described by its creators as a “fully automated bird repelling system that provides continuous bird repelling capability after a one-time configuration.” The idea behind it is relatively simple: The lasers sweep the bushes from side to side, tricking the bird into thinking they represent some physical danger, and causing them to disperse to seek safety.
Not only is the AC power or solar energy-powered solution able to cover more ground than a simple scarecrow, but Bird Control Group says that it has a longer-lasting effect and birds will not become accustomed to it. The laser is colored green, since this is supposedly perceived as being the most intense color by the birds, roughly 8 times more so than the color red. The laser has filters which reduce potentially harmful radiation. The resulting laser turret therefore should pose no actual physical threat to the birds — although not enough research has been carried out to prove this 100 percent.
Nonetheless, they prove extraordinarily effective. After installing six of the lasers, the Oregon blueberry farm says that it reduced the number of birds in the vicinity by 99 percent, saving an estimated 578,713 pounds of blueberries, with a value of $99,733.
Future iterations of the laser will reportedly be even smarter. Bird Control Group CEO Steinar Henskes told the website IEEE Spectrum that the company plans to add detection capabilities so the lasers can turn on specifically in response to the arrival of birds, triggered either by camera or radar. The next generation of laser deterrents may also allow farmers to remotely control the laser pattern and pulse, possibly adapting the devices for different uses cases.
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