financial post

The best way to price your product is to prove it works, and the IoT is making that possible

This is not a story about moths or sex. It’s about the future of your business. But let’s start with the moths.

Across North America, orchard owners are fighting a desperate battle against the codling moth. At the larval stage, these voracious predators tunnel into apples, pears and plums, where they snack on the seeds and ruin the fruit. Left unchecked, it could destroy 80 per cent of a fruit crop.

Science is fighting back. One of the most popular defenses against the codling moth is “mating disruption.” Farmers place pheromone dispensers around their orchards that spray out synthesized scents like those released by female moths to attract amorous males. Result: the male moths get confused when they can’t find their mates, and fly away unsatisfied. Generations of larvae go unborn, and farmers increase their crop yields while minimizing use of pesticides.

But synthetic moth hormones are expensive, so farmers are getting help from Semios, a Vancouver-based tech company that covers orchards with wireless sensors, mini-cameras, pest traps and pheromone dispensers that enable fruit growers to monitor conditions throughout their property and trigger their scent sprayers through a computer or smartphone.

“Semios is the most complex company I know,” said Steven Forth, a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Vancouver-based TeamFit. Its array of data, collected through its proprietary communications systems, give farmers more information, and control, than they’ve ever had. As a result, Forth told a recent Toronto conference on pricing, “They get an annual subscription price of US$180 to US$260 an acre.” How do you like them apples?

The theme of this conference was “Future-proofing your revenue model.” As I noted last week, the conference’s first half dealt mainly with the psychology of pricing. The second half was more complex, exploring the growing links between pricing, data and the emerging Internet of Things, or IoT.

When people start discussing machine-to-machine communications, I usually leave the room. But Forth’s moth story caught my interest. IoT isn’t just about collecting more data – it’s about creating knowledge and aggressive new pricing models based not on guesswork, but on understanding exactly how your product or service creates value.

“Pricing should be based on how the customer gets and perceives value,” Forth said. He predicts data-driven vendors such as Semios “will sweep across all industries.” As the IoT creates a new world of data-driven decision-making, the companies that generate the highest profit margins will be those that can prove their products work and demonstrate exactly how much value they create.

For instance, Forth said, the value of paint isn’t found in the size of the bucket, but in how much wall area it will cover. “You have to know your value drivers. And you have to know how to extend your data model to capture the data you need for better pricing.”

If your head’s not spinning now, it should be. “We’re going into uncharted territory,” noted conference organizer Augustin Manchon, a Toronto-based pricing consultant. “The Internet of Things is an amazing platform for discovering new pricing models no one has ever used.”

Brendan O’Brien, co-founder and chief evangelist of Philadelphia-based Aria Systems, contends the IoT will not just create new businesses, but also new opportunities to sell. Aria helps companies develop recurring-revenue models, like Semios’s, turning what might have been a one-time service into a contract.

Businesses that chase single sales spend a fortune on customer acquisition, and then another on customer re-acquisition, O’Brien said. By developing recurring services for your customers, you create “not just one transaction, but a textured relationship around hopefully infinite future transactions.”

As an example he cites Netflix, which leveraged online streaming to change the video-rental business into a value-priced annual subscription model. Last year, Audi launched beta-testing in San Francisco for “Audi on Demand,” a premium, app-based car-sharing service.

Then there’s’s much-derided Dash Button, a handheld branded “clicker” for Tide detergent, Kraft Dinner, and other consumer staples. The device connects with your home WiFi network; when you’re about to run out of a product, you “click” the button and Amazon will rush out a replacement, usually by the next day. (The service is not yet available in Canada.) While many pundits have laughed off those clunky clickers and the narrow consumerism they represent, O’Brien said Amazon is developing “a tethered, ongoing relationship with its customers.”

He contends every company should be developing recurring business models. Identify the data that drives your business, then figure out what additional knowledge or services you need to hook your customers to a steady drip of your product. “You have to be fast and agile to deal with the changed services landscape,” O’Brien warned. “We are about to embark on the greatest competitive landscape of all time. You don’t have five to seven years to do something and bring it to market.”

Rick Spence is a writer, consultant and speaker specializing in entrepreneurship.

Source: Financial Post

western farm press

California DPR, EPA approve Semios NOW control

Pheromone biopesticide can be used for mating disruption programs.

California has approved another tool for growers working to control the navel orangeworm (NOW).

Semios was granted label approval by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) and similar approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for an aerosol pheromone biopesticide that disrupts NOW mating.

According to the company, the Semios NOW pheromone aerosol formulas give farmers the ability to reduce and control pest populations and, as a result, significantly reduce crop damage. The pheromone aerosol dispenser is part of a custom designed controller and sensor network.

The Semios platform includes in-field camera traps that monitor the number of pests and flight strength, which when combined with wind, temperature and other environmental conditions measured and reported by Semios, optimize pheromone deployment. The combination of traps, pheromone dispensers and other sensors on the same network means farmers can deploy the right amount of pheromones where and when needed through a single interface.

Semios NOW Plus and Semios NOW Standard (for organic growers) are available for control of NOW in orchards growing walnuts, pistachios, almonds, dates, figs, citrus, pome and stone fruits.

Pheromones are a naturally occurring part of the communication systems used by insects. Semios uses pheromones to disrupt the mating cycle of insects, thus diminishing pest populations and reducing crop damage.

Semios is a precision farming platform that provides real-time information and pest management tools for the tree fruit, nut and grape growers. Semios combines hardware with powerful secure online software that monitors field and weather conditions and allows remote pest monitoring and deployment of mating disruption pheromones.

Source: Western Farm Press

fruit growers news

EPA approves biopesticide for navel orangeworm

Semios has received EPA approval and California Department of Pest Regulation approval for aerosol pheromone biopesticide products that disrupt the mating of the navel orangeworm (NOW).

The Semios platform includes in-field camera traps that monitor the number of pests and flight strength. When combined with wind, temperature and other environmental conditions measured and reported by Semios, pheromone deployment is optimized, according to Semios. The combination of traps, pheromone dispensers and other sensors on the same network means farmers can deploy the right amount of pheromones where and when needed through a single interface, the company said.

Semios NOW Plus and Semios NOW Standard (for organic growers) are available for control of NOW in orchards growing dates, figs, citrus, pome and stone fruits.

Pheromones are a naturally occurring part of the communication systems used by insects. Semios uses pheromones to disrupt the mating cycle of insects, the company said. Pheromones do not kill or damage the target insects and, as pheromones are species-specific and only target the specific pest, pollinators and other beneficial insect species are not affected, according to the company.

Source: Fruit Growers News

orchard and vine

Wireless Networks Move Pheromones Towards Mainstream Pest Control

Precision agriculture isn’t just for cereal crops anymore. BC-based company, Semios is using wireless technology in orchards and vineyards to monitor pests and apply pheromones instead of commercial pesticides for crop protection. The system is a breakthrough for producers looking to reduce or replace insecticide controls, and is already expanding applications in orchard management.

Pheromones are chemical signals used by many animals to communicate. In agriculture, they are used to change or disrupt insect behaviors, like mating, to reduce populations. While they have long been recognized as a viable protection solution, there has been no reliable system to deliver them when and where they were needed – until now.

“We thought that perhaps technology could enable and improve adoption of pheromones in crop protection,” says Michael Gilbert, CEO of Semios. “Using our network, we deliver enough of the right pheromone at the right time to get the same effect as we would with other controls.”

The Semios system uses cellular networks to connect a system of sensors, including traps and monitors, to remotely trigger a high burst application of pheromones for specific pests from an aerosol dispenser. The work to develop and test the application was supported through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program (Agri-Innovation) delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC (IAF).

Using the Semios system farmers require only one can per acre instead of the 600-1000 of the pheromone dispensers used in passive release systems. Data is collected from the network of sensors, and delivered to an online control centre that producers can access from their computer or mobile devices. The network and equipment is managed by Semios when farmers subscribe to the service, reducing the risk of the investment and learning curve.

“We are talking about real time interactive control of these pests,” says Gilbert. “The way the system is built, growers from their phone can change when and where the pheromones are delivered on demand, and within 10 minutes every single sensor in their field will be on the new schedule.”

The system was first applied to control coddling moths in apples, and has since expanded to nine different pests in seven different crops across the United States, Europe and Canada. Currently 200 farms, representing 7000 acres of orchards and vineyards, are using the Semios system.

“IAF offered the first program to fund our agricultural projects, and they have been a great partner for us,” says Gilbert. “The adoption of our metered systems got us in to big farms, and allowed us to further develop the platform, and now we do everything from remotely monitoring insect pressure in real time, as well as disease risk, frost risk and soil moisture irrigation. We now have added all these modules that truly provide a platform for the grower looking to move into the next stage of precision farming.”

Funding for the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program is provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the BC Ministry of Agriculture under Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.
Funding is still available to support the commercialization and adoption of innovation projects that benefit individual enterprises and positively impact the BC agriculture and agri-foods sector as a whole.

Source: Orchard and Vine Online

cbc news

Pheromones offer green alternative to pesticide sprays

Sex chemicals confuse male insects into looking for love in all the wrong places.

Don’t like pesticides being sprayed on your fruit? Some farmers are now turning to the green alternative of pheromones, the alluring chemicals female insects use to attract males. Pheromones are scent-like chemical signals used by many animals to communicate. For example, they’re emitted by a female moth, beetle or other insect as “come hither” calls to prospective suitors.

By spraying pheromones into the air in orchards and vineyards, farmers can confuse male insects into thinking that females are calling from all directions. The males go looking for love in all the wrong places, while the females wait helplessly for their calls to be answered — and the star-crossed lovers never find one another. Unable to mate, they don’t produce babies — offspring that take the form of worms in the fruit we eat.

Pollinators unharmed

Pheromones have a number of advantages. Insecticides don’t just kill pests, but also beneficial insects such as pollinators and pest-eating predators. Pheromones, on the other hand, are precisely targeted, because each insect species has its own chemically distinct pheromone.

That means a given pheromone can target just the single insect species that’s causing damage “while in no shape or form affecting any other moth around or any other insect for that matter,” says Michael Gilbert, CEO of Vancouver-based Semios, a company that makes high-tech automated systems for farms that dispense pheromones. Nor do pheromones affect any other organisms, including humans. They can be used by both organic and conventional growers.

David Knight, owner of Knights Appleden apple orchard in Colborne, Ont., has used Semios’s system for the past two seasons as part of a regulatory trial. The system detects moths, and automatically dispenses pheromones as needed into the air as an aerosol spray. (It is not sprayed directly on the fruit). One dispenser is hung in each acre, and male insects are extremely sensitive, so only tiny amounts are needed — about two tablespoons per dispenser per year.

“It was fantastic for the simple fact that it is less costly than spraying [insecticides],” he said.

Insecticides aren’t just expensive to buy, but also time-consuming and labour-intensive to apply, Knight said. And because they’re toxic, workers can’t enter the orchard for a certain number of days after spraying.

Knight says fruit growers like himself — who rely heavily on pollinators to produce their fruit — are also keenly aware of the environmental risk posed by pesticides.

‘Great PR thing’

While apples are vulnerable to many pests that can’t be targeted with pheromones, including the apple maggot and fungal disease called apple scab, using the moth pheromones allowed Knight to eliminate one of three or four insecticide sprays per year from his orchard.

“It’s a great PR thing for a business to say, ‘This is what we’re doing — we’re actively reducing any chemicals we use,'” added Knight, who sells his apples to large supermarket chains such as Sobeys and Metro.

Based on the results of the trial, Semios got approval from Health Canada in May for the first aerosol pheromone on the national market, one that targets the oriental fruit moth, an invasive species that can damage a wide range of fruits, including apples, pears, cherries, apricots and peaches.

Gilbert says most other pheromones on the market have been passive sources — similar to a potpourri jar as opposed to a spray — that are far more labour intensive to use, requiring hundreds of dispensers per acre.

Kirk Hillier, a biologist at Acadia University who studies how insects communicate with pheromones, says pheromones are most typically used as lures for traps. Those are often used to monitor pest levels in order to optimize the timing of pesticide sprays and eliminate unnecessary sprays, although they can sometimes also eliminate insects directly.

He added that pheromones have been shown to be effective at controlling a variety of agricultural pests, including the grapevine borer in Italy, the red palm weevil, and boll weevils that attack cotton. They’re also used in household traps for pests such as German cockroaches, and to monitor forestry pests such as the spruce budworm, gypsy moths and mountain pine beetles.

Niche market

Pheromones, Hillier said, are still a niche market compared to the global insecticide market, which was worth $58.8 billion US in 2014, according to the business intelligence firm Mordor Intelligence. “Insecticides, if they work, will produce flawless fruit. And it’s hard to compete with that,” Hillier said.

Meanwhile, he added, “There are large chemical companies that back the use of pesticides, and they have a very vested interest in maintaining the status quo.” Hillier is part of Green Insect Management Innovation and Knowledge, project in Atlantic Canada that aims to help bring more pest control pheromones to market.

Knight is one farmer who is already convinced of the value of pheromones. Following the trial, he decided to pay for a subscription to Semios’s system for part of his farm (he couldn’t afford it for all 240 hectares at once).

In addition to the pheromones, he also likes other “smart farm” features that come with the system, including sensors that measure temperature and moisture. They help predict the risk of other pests such as fire blight, helping reduce the amount of spraying required for those as well.

Farmers reaping big rewards from new smartphone apps

He thinks other farmers will soon follow suit. “I could see this technology be completely mainstream in our industry in the next five or six years.”

Source: CBC News

the grower logo

Aerosol pheromones take off in targeting oriental fruit moth

Oriental fruit moths are going to be flying solo this summer if growers install an aerosol pheromone dispenser in their orchards. The new technology will disrupt the mating behaviour of this most damaging of orchard pests. Left unchecked, these moths would lay eggs which hatch into larvae that feed internally on apples, pears and stone fruit.

Semios, a Vancouver-based company, has enjoyed early success with this ‘disruptive’ technology in the United States and Europe. Now, with approval of the pheromone package from the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, it expects to have about 4,000 acres under its precision management services in Canada in 2015.

The concept of controlling pests with pheromones is not new, but the way in which they have been used to date is anti- quated, costly and labour-inten- sive, explains Semios CEO and president Michael Gilbert. Semios uses one aerosol dispenser per acre that is connected to a net- work of field sensors to measure weather conditions, and together
with remote-camera pest traps, it signals the optimal timing and dosage of pheromone to be released.

The journey to commercial- ization has been more daunting than first thought. A chemist by trade, Gilbert has engineered in-orchard, real-time, wireless networks. This hurdle took more than two years because leafy, dewy environments interrupt wireless communication. Once he installed solar-powered sensors, he can now generate site-specific data seamlessly. With reliable data, the system can be programmed to trigger timed puffs of pheromones. In peak moth season, that could be every 15 minutes.

“The ultimate goal has been to precisely meter the pheromones,” says Gilbert. “Pheromones are a very expensive active ingredient costing anywhere from $1000 to $10,000 per kilogram. By only releasing pheromones when and where moths are in flight for the purpose of reproduction, Semios is extremely effective and less costly than sprays.”

So Semios has developed a service based on a per acre/per year licensing fee starting at $60 US/acre/year. Pricing depends on the range of services and the pheromone required for the specific farm. In the U.S., for example, the most popular package for apple growers includes: network, data storage, user interface, site-specific weather data, frost management (inversions, wetbulb, sprinkler thresholds), codling moth (CM) mating disruption pheromones, networked dispensers, CM degree day models and networked camera pest traps. Altogether, that costs $150 US/acre/year. In developing data services and registering pheromone products, Semios has worked in 40 sites with apple, pear, peach, cherry and grape growers in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

“One less agricultural spray is better for us all – the fruit, the consumer and the environment,” says Knights Appleden farm manager, Rod Steenbruggen. “This is great technology that is making a big difference.” In the case of specific insects, growers can switch from pesti- cides to pheromones, lowering overall orchard pesticide usage. The advantage is that pollinators and other beneficial insect species are not affected. Since Semios is the only pheromone dispenser that can be controlled remotely, growers can even use their smartphones to alter the timing. Is this a mothy night? It’s a midsummer night’s dream to program the pheromones.

Once hung in the trees, the Semios in-field sensors and camera traps monitor the number of pests. This information, combined with wind and temperature conditions, is analyzed to optimize pheromone deployment. The most common application rate is a metered puff every 15 minutes, 12 hours a day during evening and night-time hours through the growing season.


Source: The Grower

growing america

Semios Launches Frost Module for Precision Farming Platform

Semios, provider of real-time agricultural information for precision farming, launches a new Frost Module. “The Semios Frost Module, takes the guess work out of frost protection on a per acre basis,” said Michael Gilbert, CEO of Semios. “It alerts farmers when there is cause for concern and tracks the outcome of frost mitigation tools in action, so the farmer can respond accordingly or get a good nights sleep.” The Frost Module is part of a custom designed controller and sensor network that gives farmers remote access to the conditions in the field 24/7. Other modules include Pest Management, Disease Control and Irrigation Management.

The Semios platform captures and logs data from a network of sensors placed on every acre of a grower’s property. From site-specific sensors, the frost module monitors temperature inversions (up to 20′ high) every 10 minutes, provides wet bulb calculations and sprinkler thresholds based on stage of bud development. When a frost alert is sent by txt and email, growers know exactly where action needs to be taken and furthermore can determine if their frost mitigation tools are having the desired effect or need to be adjusted for efficiency.

Mr. Scott Hassle of Berrybrook Enterprises, said, “Having Semios Frost Alert text me with the data I needed to know, made my decision to start the wind machines a lot easier. I was able to return indoors and watch the graphs map the evolving field conditions, giving me peace of mind.” Berrybrook came online with the Frost Module the day before the first frost hit and found it very easy to use.

In 2015, this service was launched to existing Semios customers on 5,000 acres of apple, pear, grapes, walnuts, almonds, pistachios and citrus orchards. Each sensor station has the ability to run any module, so a simple activation by Semios is all that is required. Modules have video tutorials and Semios customer support is available 24/7. The cost for the Semios Frost Module is $10 US per acre per year. Subscription platform packages start at $60 US per acre per year.

Source: Growing California

business in vancouver

Health Canada approves pheromone product that confuses fruit-eating moths

Fast-growing technology company to ramp up hiring as sales for “smart farming” products escalate.

Health Canada has given farmers the green light to start buying a product that prevents Oriental fruit moths from mating, thereby helping to protect apple and pear crops.

The Vancouver technology company Semios sought the approval to sell pheromone dispensers that release an aerosol spray that confuses the moths and keeps them from recognizing genuine pheromones given off by their species.

“Every insect has a different pheromone,” Semios CEO Michael Gilbert explained to Business in Vancouver May 14.

“That’s the biggest benefit of pheromones. You can target, in this case, the Oriental fruit moth, which is a major pest, and in no way do you confuse, damage or harm beneficial insects, such as bees or different types of wasps, which attack the harmful moth.”

Gilbert’s four-year-old, 30-employee private company is rapidly increasing its revenue and is on track to generate about $3 million this year, he said.

He also expects to hire about 20 new employees by the end of the year – mostly agronomists and software developers.

“Our primary product is a precision farming platform for smart farming,” he said to explain why he needs more software developers.

“We install wireless networks on farms. When you have a wireless network, you can have remotely triggered pheromone dispensers.”

Other products that also rely on wireless networks include one that remotely monitors of insects, another that remotely monitors frost and another that remotely monitors diseases that impact the fruit trees.

“We also have soil moisture monitoring to help with irrigation,” he said.

Apple farmer Lorent Taves told BIV said that he has not noticed Oriental fruit moths being a particular problem but, because infestations can be site specific, he is concerned.

A bigger pest that Taves deals with at his Abbotsford farm is the codling moth.

“Pheromone is a much better way of taking care of the problem of pests than anything else if you look at it from an environmental point of view,” Taves said. “We do a lot of pheromone disruption here instead of using a spray because it is non-toxic so if Health Canada is approving more products like [Semios’ one], I’m all for it.”

Semios already sells its pheromone spray boxes in six U.S. states that have approved their use. Farmers in the U.S. pay US$150 per box with one box required for each acre. Gilbert said that he will start offering the product in Canada for the Canadian dollar equivalent.

Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) has funded Semios’ technology with a $2.8 million investment in 2013, when it was known as SemiosBIO. The company also has products to combat bedbugs.

Source: Business in Vancouver

smithsonian logo

With Semios, Farmers Can Monitor Their Fields Remotely and Keep Pests Away

Paired with wireless sensors and cameras, aerosol pheromone pesticides have entered a new era of effectiveness and affordability.

There’s definitely something in the air at John Freese’s cherry, apple and pear orchards in Central Washington. And that something is a cloud of pheromones—one that means fewer pesky moths snacking their way through his fields. For the past year, the fourth-generation fruit farmer has been testing Semios, a pheromone-delivery and precision farming system that uses wireless sensors and cameras to help growers monitor their crops remotely. The network of tiny cameras and data collecting monitors keeps tabs on the fields and weather conditions. Strategically placed canisters routinely spray the trees to prevent infestations.

Last year, Freese hung several thousand Semios cartridges on trees across 100 acres of orchard. During peak insect mating seasons throughout the year, for up to 12 hours a day, the dispensers fire off pheromone mistings every 15 minutes. These biopesticides don’t kill insects, but they do disrupt breeding. Farmers using Semios schedule sprayings by using the company’s full suite of remote in-field monitors and weather stations that help measure wind and moisture levels, as well as pest traps, which track insects’ lifecycles.

“Mating disruption is not exciting,” Freese concedes. “If it works, you don’t see anything.” And that is what makes it a profoundly useful tool for fruit and nut growers trying to protect their farms.

Confused by the presence of pheromones in the air, male insects are unable to locate a mating partner and give up. For Freese, that’s meant contending with far fewer codling and Oriental fruit moths, the top two global pests for apples and pears that also attack other types of tree fruit, including apricots, peaches and quinces. Aside from some automatic misters in the trees, which look a bit like industrial-grade outdoor air fresheners, there’s no way to tell an orchard is managing pests by messing with their reproductive lives.

Michael Gilbert, the founder and CEO of Vancouver-based Semios, is a chemist with two decades of experience concocting, manufacturing and managing the distribution of pharmaceutical products based on naturally occurring substances. After stints at Merck and Cardiome Pharma Corp., where he managed the research and development of cardiovascular and other medications, he was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and started looking into the class of chemicals known as pheromones.

Developed in earnest after the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of DDT in 1972, biopesticides include everything from fungal pesticides that contain bacterium that kill specific insects to biochemical products, such as pheromone pesticides. In 1994, the EPA established the Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division within the Office of Pesticide Programs in order to facilitate the registration of biopesticides. As of 2014, the EPA reported more than 430 registered biopesticide ingredients and 1,320 products. As biopesticides are generally considered less toxic than chemical pesticides, the EPA review and approval process takes considerably less time. Biopesticides are typically approved in less than a year versus the typical three years it takes to for a chemical product.

In recent years, organic and traditional farmers have increasingly used pheromone pesticides for a number of reasons. Targeted pests don’t become resistant to pheromones in the same way they can adapt to insecticides. Biopesticides don’t kill or harm pollinators like bees, and other beneficial insects and wildlife. Furthermore, farm workers are spared the excess labor and chemical exposure needed to spray entire fields with traditional pesticides. With pheromones, there’s no re-entry period, or time—sometimes more than a month—when farmers have to stay out of an area recently sprayed with toxic chemicals.

Historically, pheromones—and specifically pheromone pesticides—have been prohibitively expensive. Before partnering with Semios, Freese had already implemented pheromone pesticides in his cherry orchards in order to disrupt codling moth mating. But it cost him up to $11,000 just for pheromone bands, a flexible adhesive fiber ring farmers can wrap around a tree trunk to emit pheromones and block climbing insects like caterpillars. When he factored in the entire week it takes his whole crew to install bands on over 100 acres, the actual cost was much higher.

“My thought was, let’s find a better cheaper way of making these [pheromone-based] products,” Gilbert explains. He focused on airborne, winged insects for a reason: it’s much harder to locate and target pests that crawl or burrow.

Over two years of intense research and development, Semios developed patented wireless monitors with radio signals that can connect through broad tree leaves. A leafy orchard can be a logistics nightmare when it comes to wireless technology. Gilbert says that contrary to what some might think, it’s easier for radio signals to travel through dense concrete city buildings than wet leaves blowing in the wind.

Freese reasoned paying $150 per acre for the complete Semios system—or $15,000 for 100 acres, by his back-of-the-envelope math—would produce at least a comparable result to his pheromone tree bands for the same amount of money. As an added bonus, Semios handles all the installation costs and maintenance on the hanging boxes, and also offers on-call support 24 hours a day.

Remote monitoring has saved the fruit farmer both time and energy by enabling acre-by-acre microanalysis. Instead of hiring consultants to walk in the fields, for example, a farmer can check the Semios dashboard on his phone and receive alerts when temperature drops in remote orchards. These early warnings could significantly improve crop yields.

When we spoke, Freese was just up from an early morning nap after a night out in the fields fighting frost. Being able to track temperatures in near-real-time in remote orchards miles away has been especially critical early in the growing seasons, when he can spot a cold patch in an orchard or note when a frost fan doesn’t kick on and send warm air to ground level before the temperature drops too low.

“Anybody else that fights frost in the spring,” Freese says, “I can’t believe they wouldn’t be excited about this technology.”


vancouver sun

Pheromone-based insect control does well in trials

A Vancouver-based agricultural tech firm is quickly making believers of Canadian farmers with pheromone-based insect control systems that virtually eliminate the need for insecticides.

In a two-year field trial of a Semios computer-controlled remote pheromone delivery system on Allan Patton’s apple orchard in Oliver, the concentration of apple clearwing moths dropped from 200 per acre to just five.

“I stepped up and volunteered for the pilot after I got a bit worried about the (clearwing moth) counts on my orchard,” said Patton. As a director of the Okanagan-Kootenay Sterile Insect Release Program – another chemical-free insect management system that employs pheromones – Patton wanted to be on the cutting edge with the newest technology.

“The (Semios) system worked phenomenally well,” he said.

The clearwing population in Patton’s orchard is now well below the 100-per-acre threshold for spraying insecticides and that suits him just fine. When the trial ends, Patton intends to become a customer.

Between moth traps, sterile insects to control another pest, a healthy population of beneficial insects and now an automated pheromone control system, Patton has little use for toxic chemicals.

“I use very little insecticide in the orchard and I want to keep it that way,” he said.

A one-year trial of a Semios codling moth pheromone system at Ontario’s Algoma Orchard produced similar results.

The system floods the orchard with compounds that are produced by female moths to attract males to mate, ensuring they have no way to find each other for the purpose of procreation.

The larvae of the clearwing moth – introduced to Canada about 10 years ago from Europe – tunnel under the bark of apple trees, damaging and killing them. Codling moth larvae burrow into the fruit, literally the worm in your apple.

Semios recently received regulatory approval by Health Canada for a pheromone that controls oriental fruit moth, the company’s first in Canada. An application for the codling moth pheromone is under review, while the clearwing product is still in trials.

Pheromones are not a new way to control insect populations, but older systems required pheromones to be distributed manually in hundreds of locations over many acres, requiring hours of labour during times in the growing season when help might be in short supply, said Semios CEO Michael Gilbert.

“Old pheromone technology was labour intensive and cost prohibitive,” he said. “That said, where pheromones have been widely adopted such as Washington apple growers, they have been successful.”

What Semios markets is not just pheromones, but an integrated computer controlled system that uses remote cameras and sensors to monitor pest pressure (the number of insects per acre), weather conditions and moisture levels at locations throughout the orchard and then automatically deploys the sexually confusing compounds when and where they are needed.

“Our mission is to ensure that growers’ decisions are datadriven,” said Gilbert. Often decisions about what happens in farmers’ fields is driven by experience from past years, hunches and attitudes about the environment, rather than real-time monitoring of current conditions.

“Pheromone-based pest management is better than insecticides, but it is more complex, so we created this platform to do that,” he said. “The beauty of pheromones is that they are species specific – so beneficial insects like bees are not harmed – but that means you need a different pheromone for each insect you want to target,” he said.

Semios is developing a suite of pheromones for its system to control at least eight common pests that attack fruit and nut trees. Farmers can deploy one or several pheromones at once depending on their needs, which vary by region and local climate conditions.

“Grapes in B.C. have different needs than grapes in France or Italy, but there will be a mix of pheromones that will work for each given area,” he said.

According to Statistics Canada, about 28 per cent of B.C. farmers report using insecticides, well above the Canadian average of 15 per cent.

But producers of tree fruits, grapes and berries are under considerable pressure from wary consumers and environmental groups that publish regular reports detailing the chemical residues found on grocery store produce. So farmers are hungry for alternatives to insecticides.

“This is good science and it’s the technology that farmers want,” said Patton, who also uses Semios weather and moisture sensors for frost control and irrigation. “We all benefit from this kind of science.”

Source: Vancouver Sun