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New Tech that Zaps Agricultural Pests with Laser Beams

By Juichiro Ito - February 2, 2022

The research comes as demand increases for a safe and stable food supply – without the application of chemicals – to feed the growing global population.

Exterminating agricultural pests that move quickly in the air is not so easy.

However, a fresh solution is now on the horizon, thanks to research conducted by groups such as the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO).

The research team has devised a system that predicts the insects’ flight paths based on extensive data analyzed by AI. The technology then shoots down the pests with laser beams.

The team hopes to make the tech a reality by 2025, adding drones and robots, with the aim of creating automatic pest extermination without pesticides.

Stemming the Huge Hit on Global Food Production

It is predicted that global demand for food will be 1.7 times higher in 2050 than it was in 2010. Therefore, food production needs to be boosted sooner rather than later.

The sudden increase in pests is also an issue. It has been reported that 15.6% of the total food produced in the world is wasted because it is ruined by pests, making it essential to develop efficient extermination methods in order to maintain a steady food supply.

Currently pests are mainly dealt with by the application of pesticides to crops, but this method is not perfect. As a result, some pests have developed resistance to the old pesticides, and the effectiveness of the existing product range is weakening.

As this happens, users start to overcompensate by applying excessive amounts of pesticide, which can harm the surrounding ecosystem and biodiversity.

As existing products lose their effectiveness, new products are needed. However, it requires a great deal of time and money to develop new pesticides, and fewer new products are being developed.

With pesticides losing their edge, there have been calls for development of a completely new way of dealing with pests that does not involve chemicals.

The Japanese government also sees the development of new extermination methods as an important issue. This is why it included the matter in its “Moonshot Research & Development Program,” which seeks sustainable growth and tackles social problems through disruptive innovation using the latest technology.

NEDO and other organizations involved in the project are working on laser technology that exterminates the Spodoptera litura (commonly called the cotton leafworm or tobacco cutworm), one of the most commonly known pests.

The Spodoptera litura is about 2 centimeters long, is similar to moths, and inhabits most regions in Asia. It is a nuisance pest that has the ability to quickly develop resistance to pesticides.

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