The greenhouse environment is becoming increasingly data-driven, and pest management is no different as technology races to find ways of detecting and eradicating greenhouse pests. And so, enter PATS and its advanced scouting and control technologies. PATS Indoor Drone Solutions is a Delft-based company that uses AI, vision, and micro-drone technology to detect and eradicate airborne greenhouse pests.
“PATS develops technologies that can be adapted to any environment. We are less interested in the crop itself, but in the pest and the airspace, it navigates through. Our technology can be used irrespective of growing conditions, from high- to low-tech environments,” says founder and Chief Executive Officer Bram Tijmons.
PATS’ system is modular and twofold, with its PATS-C vision solution being the brain that detects and monitors insects, while PATS-X is the drone solution that receives signals from PATS-C and then autonomously hunts the insects. PATS-C and PATS-X can detect and eradicate multiple pests, including the tomato looper, European pepper moth, banana moth, and Tuta absoluta (tomato leaf miner). Currently, PATS has installed its PATS-C vision system in multiple crops and greenhouses internationally. PATS-X will be launched at GreenTech, and PATS is now rolling this solution out to a dozen growers in The Netherlands before the end of the year. This involves tomatoes, gerbera, potted plants, and some other crops. The goal is to be ready for large-scale roll-out from early 2023.
As Bram explains, the exact number of drones and cameras needed per hectare is not yet determined, but he expects that one system will cover about 1-2.000 square meters.
PATS-C allows the detection of pests one generation earlier
Using the example of moths in gerbera greenhouses, Bram explains that the PATS-C system has been able to detect moths weeks before the growers now do with current solutions as the system monitors the greenhouse continuously, including during the nighttime when moths are most active. As such, PATS-C allows growers to detect pests earlier and address the pest pressure before it becomes problematic. And when PATS-X is officially launched, PATS-C will communicate with the drones to identify, hunt, and eradicate pests.
“Most small pest insects can be well controlled with biological control agents, but large insects are harder to control and often require harsher intervention. With PATS-C, we can see tomato loopers weeks earlier, for example, and begin applying Bt solutions early so that the first caterpillar bite will be fatal,” explains Bram.
PATS-C gives growers the time to build up natural enemies and implement control measures, such as Bt applications. With the launch of PATS-X, growers can rest assured that their PATS system is both monitoring and actively combatting destructive insects.
Industry partnerships propelling PATS higher
In November 2021, PATS Indoor Drone Solutions announced its partnership with Royal Brinkman, through which the latter will sell PATS-C as part of its crop protection portfolio. Further, PATS also announced another partnership in May 2022 – this time with Biobest. Biobest will be offering PATS-C as part of its global crop protection portfolio and is collaborating with PATS to develop Trap-Eye™ for the monitoring of small flying insects. Trap-Eye has been nominated for GreenTech Concept Award.
“Trap-Eye is a joint and patent-pending innovation with Biobest and PATS. It fully automates sticky trap monitoring with 40 devices per hectare. These together establish a wireless computer vision network. They take photos of sticky traps at a grower-defined interval, after which the photos are processed doing the pest and beneficial counts using an AI neural network,” Bram says.
Trap-Eye removes all manual labor from sticky trap monitoring and counting as the photos are sent to the cloud through a central hub where Biobest algorithms conduct the insect counts and then provide the grower with a report. It offers growers accurate, high-density scouting and empowers them to customize IPM programs remotely. Trap-Eye thus removes the labor cost associated with counting sticky traps as well as the risk of transmitting viruses and pests by human traffic is significantly reduced. And so, the age of counting sticky traps will soon be over.