Farming on an industrial scale means dealing with pests that ravage crops also needs an industrial-size solution. Until now, that has meant relying on pesticides. But the problem with pesticides is they kill just about everything and that's not a great situation to be in, especially where bees are concerned.
We need a more intelligent solution for killing flying pests, and according to Wired, the Photonic Fence could be it.
Former Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold setup the company Intellectual Ventures and came up with the Photonic Fence (PF) idea back in 2010. It's basically an intelligent laser zapper for killing bugs. The intelligent bit is PF's ability to tell the difference between individual bugs and deciding which ones to shoot down based on a kill list.
The PF uses a combination of cameras and optics to create a wall of near-infrared light with 100 meter range. Any bug flying into this area will be identified and then killed with a laser blast if it is on the kill list. So precise is the identification, the device can tell the difference between male and female mosquitoes. The kill rate is equally impressive at 20 bugs per second.
Although not commercially available yet, Intelligent Ventures does have its first customer in the form of the US Department of Agriculture. They have installed PF machines in Florida to help control the Asian citrus psyllid, which has decimated citrus production in the state.
If the Photonic Fence is as good as it sounds, we could all eventually want one to keep our homes and gardens free of unwanted invaders. And if it ends up being a better solution than pesticides for farmers, then we'll all be better off.