Could an AI-powered insect trap solve the $220 billion pest problem? | CNN Business


CNN Business

Pests destroy up to 40% of the world’s crops each year, causing economic losses of $220 billion, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Trapview is harnessing the power of AI to help tackle the problem.

The Slovenian company has developed a device that traps and detects pests and acts as an early warning system by predicting how they will spread.

“We have created the world’s largest database of insect images, which allows us to use modern AI-based computing approaches in a truly optimal way,” said Matej Stefancic, CEO of TrapView and parent company EFOS.

As climate change spreads species and disrupts the migration patterns of highly destructive pests like the desert locust, Stefancich hopes to help farmers save their crops through quick, smart interventions.

Trapview’s devices use pheromones to attract insects, which are photographed by a camera inside. The AI ​​cross-references the images against Trapview’s database, and is able to identify more than 60 species, such as the codling moth, which infests apples, and the cotton bollworm, which can damage lettuce and tomatoes. Once detected, the system incorporates location and weather data, maps the insect’s potential impact and sends the results to farmers via an app.

Depending on the terrain and crop value, a single trap can cover areas from a few hectares to more than 100, according to Štefančič. Devices come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including systems designed for crops and landscapes. Stefancich says a single insect can sometimes cause danger. In other cases, hundreds of insects may be caught and still not cause for concern.

Trapview’s app is also able to calculate where and when to use pesticides. Štefančič says TrapView can significantly reduce the use of chemical sprays and the need for farmers to visit their fields. Reduces emissions generated by With farmers driving to their fields, and those involved in pesticide production and transport, the technology could also help the climate, he claims.

TrapView is one of several automated pest detection systems.

“Any agritech and AI that can help address the challenge of global food crises is a good thing,” said Steve Edgington, biopesticides team leader at the Center for Agriculture and Biosciences International, a non-profit intergovernmental organization.

About 2 million tons of pesticides are used each year, Edgington explains.

“Reducing the amount of pesticide use on agricultural land is crucial if we want to produce food sustainably and within the challenges of pests and diseases and climate change,” he added.

Trapview currently employs 50 people and received a $10 million investment in September. Using AI to help control pests is not alone. Pessl Instruments developed iScout, a solar-powered insect trap and camera detection system, while FarmSense’s FlightSensor uses AI to listen for insects and identify them by the sound of their wings beating.

According to Buyung Hadi, Agriculture Officer at FAO, solutions like TrapView represent a move away from conventional pest management, which is typically based on reactive rather than proactive approaches.

“Predictive technologies can facilitate the transition to more sustainable crop protection if combined with safe and sustainable solutions, such as biological control,” Hadi said, adding that the quality of data from these technologies is important.

“Great care should be taken in formulating the messages and recommendations coming from predictive technologies so that they do not create panic among farmers who may start using pesticides indiscriminately which we want to avoid in the first place,” he added.

Trapview says it has sold more than 7,500 devices in more than 50 countries since it launched in 2012. It has focused on Italy, France, Spain, the United States and Brazil, targeting crops as diverse as grapes, tomatoes, olives, tree fruits, brassicas, cotton and sugarcane.