Working around here I always had too many jobs… so I connected a mobile phone to do some of the work for me.”

At his beautiful orchard an hour from Melbourne, fruit farmer Kim Khor was struggling to find enough hours in the day to get all his jobs done. Fruit flies and other pest insects were devouring his precious apples, but he was too busy to check the insect traps regularly. So in his backyard shed, he invented a solution.

SnapTrap automates the manual traps that are used for monitoring pest insects,” Kim says. “The jar contains a lure to attract the insect in, with either an insecticide or a sticky pad to catch the insect. Then we’re able to look at the contents of the trap with the electronics on top. This communicates with the internet and I can then review the information at night.”

Kim built his first prototype using a corflute trap and an old mobile phone. “Originally it was simply taking photos so I didn’t need to be standing at the trap at the right time to identify the insect arriving.” But as his prototype progressed, he modified it to automatically identify insects, analyse their life cycle and automatically determine the best time to use control methods like pesticides.

To develop SnapTrap, Kim worked with entomologists (insect scientists) to study the insects, mathematicians to analyse the data, software programmers to reflect the maths in a practical way, hardware engineers to work on the physical product and other growers to test out the prototypes. “Lots of people have been very helpful,” Kim says, “I’ve been very lucky".

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The current version of SnapTrap also measures environmental factors like temperature and humidity, which it uses to further predict pest insect behaviour. “We’re also able to add other sensors, like perhaps soil moisture, or whatever’s relevant to the insect we’re dealing with at the time.”

Farmers can use the data from SnapTrap to more effectively control the pest insects, without necessarily using insecticides. “There are a lot of new, wonderful technologies like predator insects - some of these are native insects in Australia. And there are new chemical techniques like hormones that affect the behaviour of the insect.”

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Kim believes SnapTrap will have a big impact across Australia. “Crop damage means that we’re selling less of the fruit and there’s waste. This is quite a complicated and expensive problem for Australia, and it’s limiting our ability to grow exports and increase the size of the industry.”

Kim also hopes that his invention will help inspire other young innovators to imagine new ways to improve the agriculture industry. “Agriculture is a very interesting place to work because there’s always different aspects to be involved with, and I think there is great opportunity to bring new ideas into the environment, enjoy the diversity of the kinds of jobs that are available and we need this new creative energy in the industry to accelerate us forward.”

Let your ideas flow, let your experience from other areas influence your creative thoughts and get those creative thoughts out. There will be some gold in there!”

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