Friday, 07 July 2023 08:25

High-tech solution takes the guesswork out of fungal diseases

Written by  Mark Daniel
The BioScout Platform is fully autonomous and can operate for many years. The BioScout Platform is fully autonomous and can operate for many years.

Working on spore trapping as part of his microbiology studies was when Lewis Collins first thought about the challenge of analysing airborne diseases.

He realised that by the time useful data was received, it was typically already too late to avoid an outbreak within a crop. With his mechatronic engineering cap on, Collins had a vision of automating the process so that growers could get a realtime understanding of the minuscule pathogens in their environment.

The result is Bioscout – a high-tech solution that takes the guesswork out of detecting fungal crop diseases and allows a better focus on other orchard tasks.

Collins says, typically, growers rely on intuition and symptomatic indicators to manage disease in production crops – like Alternaria fruit rot, Brown spot, Blackleg, Downy and Powdery mildew – which often results in spraying too much, too often and at the wrong time.

Bioscout is said to allow growers to see the ‘unseeable’ and react to a disease presence weeks before it impacts yields. It also reduces preventive sprays by understanding the general disease risk. Three installations are currently in their first season of use in New Zealand.

The BioScout Platform is fully autonomous and can operate for many years on end without human intervention.

It also has a ‘worldfirst’ airborne disease tracking ability. This is equipped with a comprehensive suite of environmental sensors, including monitoring weather conditions and live spore counts. This allows the system to provide the complete picture of disease risk at field-level resolution, typically up to two weeks before symptoms become apparent in the crop.

The system works by drawing air into the units causing particles to adhere to a sticky strip. These particles are constantly photographed using automated microscopy. From here, an AI function compares the photos with an expanding database of pathogen images.

This allows the system to track the spread of fungal diseases on farms and orchards, providing growers and agronomists with real-time, location and disease specific data. As a rule of thumb, one Bioscout device is able to offer informative data for 20 to 100 ha. However, unit density also depends on topography and target diseases decided by a site survey. The full BioScout dashboard can be viewed on a laptop. This displays a map of an individual property, showing the location of the devices, all current pathogen warnings and weather information.

The company suggests that having a better understanding of how critical environmental conditions affects your disease risk and allows growers to apply fungicides exactly when needed for maximum effectiveness and an improved return on investment.

At the same time, it also offers peace of mind by removing the “unknown factor”, while also improving confidence in reducing fungicide use and offering the choice of switching to more biological solutions.

More like this

Temporary slurry tanks – cheap, easy to install

With effluent management never far from the thoughts of legislators and farmers becoming increasingly aware of the nutrient values of dairy effluent, innovate ideas for the convenient storage and subsequent discharge are always of interest.

900,000 tractors sold in India

While the average size of a tractor in India is much smaller than in Europe or North America, the market is booming, with a record 915,474 tractors sold last year – five times greater than the Western European and three times larger than North American markets.

Machinery builder in liquidation

In what appears to be a casualty of the downturn in the agricultural sector, a well-known machinery brand is now in the hands of liquidators and owing creditors $6.6 million.

PM opens new Power Farming facility

Morrinsville based Power Farming Group has launched a flagship New Zealand facility in partnership with global construction manufacturer JCB Construction.

Made in NZ: TRS Tyre & Wheel Ltd

Made in New Zealand looks at the wealth of design and manufacturing ability we have in New Zealand, creating productive and cost-effective products for the agricultural sector. This week machinery editor Mark Daniel takes a closer look at TRS Tyre and Wheel Limited with managing director Nigel Sherborne…


Celebrating success

The Director General of MPI, Ray Smith says it's important for his department to celebrate the success of a whole range of groups and people around the country.

Biosecurity award for M. bovis work

A small company which mobilised veterinarians around the country to deal with Mycoplasma bovis was one of the winners in this year's Biosecurity Awards, held at Parliament.

Cyclone's devastating legacy

One of the country's top Māori sheep and beef farms is facing a five-year battle to get back to where it was before Cyclone Gabrielle struck just over 14 months ago.


Leaderbrand goes electric!

One of the largest horticulture commercial growing companies in NZ has just begun using a new electric harvester and self-propelled…

Hawke's Bay to the world

Rockit chief executive Mark O'Donnell says consumer awareness for the brand continues to improve each year.

Rockit all fired up

Snack sized apple business Rockit says it is fired up for a record 2024 season.

Machinery & Products

Success for Argo tractors

The judges at last year’s Agritechnica event picked the Italian-built Landini Rex 4-120GT Robo- Shift Dynamic as the Best of…

Pollution into fertiliser

While the new government is sure to “tinker” with the previous administration’s emissions policy, a recent visit to New Zealand…

Smart money backs smart machine

Marlborough-based start-up SmartMachine claims its new machine is one of the most significant operational step changes for viticulture since the…

Robo packer hits a billion

New Zealand inventor and manufacturer Robotics Plus Limited’s fruit packing robot has hit a major milestone of one billion pieces…

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Cut with care

OPINION: The new government has clearly signalled big cuts across the public service.

Bubble burst!

OPINION: Your canine crusader is not surprised by the recent news that New Zealand plant-based ‘fake meat’ business is in…

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter