Jun 5, 2023MSU: Laser repellent helps deter birds
No Avipel. No problem.
Earlier this month, Arkion Life Science announced it would cancel the registration for Avipel upon request from the Environmental Protection Agency. The dry corn seed treatment stopped blackbirds, crows, pheasants and sandhill cranes from eating just-planted corn seed, serving as one of the only ways to stop the birds.
But now there’s another option for Michigan growers, said Dan Vogler, operator of Harrieta Hills Trout Farm LLC.
The AVIX Autonomic Mark II is a laser repellant you can mount on a pole or pedestal or some other elevated area to ward off birds from attacking fish — or corn seed.
A single unit can move in 16 different patterns, 150 waypoints and cover up to 40 acres of a field, Vogler said.
The technology also moves side to side, forward and backward, and can be controlled via a mobile app.
“The whole idea is about creating unpredictability,” Vogler told Michigan Farm News.
“Because they’re custom programmed, you’re putting them precisely where they need to be on each waypoint. For example, on our fish farm, we’re down in a valley. The great blue heron that we struggle with like to stay in the trees and hang out, and then they come down to feed on the ponds. We run some patterns that sweep the trees and keep them out.”
The Wexford County Farm Bureau member said the farm lost roughly $30,000 a year in fish attacks. Since installing one unit near his ponds, attacks have been cut by about 90%.
“When you are talking about corn, you’re talking about a coverage area of 20 to 40 acres with a single laser,” said Vogler, noting two lasers on the same field could increase that coverage to about 100 acres.
“Having more coverage with multiple lasers tends to have a synergistic effect. In vineyards, where the birds can get down into the crop, growers found that you get a much better effect from having two lasers from two different angles.”
After success at his operation, Vogler started selling the lasers. He recently installed four units for a large egg producer in Wisconsin. There, the livestock operator wants to keep migratory birds from feeding in his nearby fields to help prevent Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza spread.
“Their bird count is way down — from hundreds and hundreds and hundreds all over the place, all the time, to one from time to time,” Vogler said. “It’s not 100% — a magic silver bullet — but it dramatically reduces the amount of activity.”
A single laser unit costs around $16,000 to $18,000, which includes installation and program training. Currently, the technology is used in 90 countries around the world. Birds affected include sandhill cranes, crows, ravens, and, among others, osprey.
“With the loss of Avipel, it is more important than ever to find new ways to keep birds from destroying corn seedlings,” said Theresa Sisung, industry relations specialist for Michigan Farm Bureau.
“Sandhill cranes can decimate a corn field by going down the row and picking corn out of the ground. Many birds are also a major foe for specialty crop growers, so it is nice to see that this technology has many different applications for agriculture.”