Federal grants awarded to strengthen agriculture pest monitoring technology

June 6, 2013  


The Z-Trap, shown hanging in an apple tree, automatically detects the number of target insects it has captured and sends the data wirelessly to a grower's mobile phone or computer. Spensa Technologies Inc., which developed the Z-Trap, received SBIR grants from the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve the device's energy efficiency and versatility. (Purdue Research Foundation photo)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Crop producers and consultants could have more energy-efficient, versatile tools to use for integrated pest management processes, thanks to an agriculture technology firm that received grants from the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Johnny Park, president and CEO of Spensa Technologies Inc., based in the Purdue Research Park, said integrated pest management is an ecological approach to managing pests in agricultural crops.

"The main goal is to reduce the amount of pesticide applications by providing precise information as to when, where and how much pesticide should be applied while keeping pest damage to a minimum," he said.

Spensa Technologies has developed the Z-Trap, an insect trapping device that automatically detects the number of target insects captured and sends the data wirelessly to a grower's mobile phone or computer.

"Z-Traps automate the critical but labor-intensive task of monitoring pest populations, which makes it a cost-effective integrated pest management solution," said Park, who also is a Purdue University research professor in electrical and computer engineering. "It also provides unprecedented real-time, high-resolution insect population information that could significantly increase the overall effectiveness of the approach."

The NSF awarded a six-month SBIR Phase I grant worth $150,000 to Spensa Technologies, and the USDA awarded the company an eight-month SBIR Phase I grant worth $100,000. Park said the awards will strengthen Z-Trap technology.

"The USDA grant will allow my colleagues and me to investigate methods to reduce the Z-Trap's power consumption," Park said. "Our goal is to operate Z-Traps for at least six months using a battery pack that is half the size of the one currently used. The challenge is to reduce the power consumption without sacrificing the robustness and accuracy of counting the number of target insects.

"The NSF grant will help us develop a new multi-sensor system that not only improves the accuracy of single-pest species detection, but also enables classification of multiple pest species. Being able to monitor multiple pest species could multiply the Z-Trap's value to crop producers and consultants."

Park said the NSF and USDA grants benefit Spensa Technologies in other ways.

"The entire team at Spensa is excited and grateful to receive the SBIR awards from the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Agriculture," he said. "These highly competitive and prestigious awards not only will bring us a step closer to successfully commercializing the Z-Trap, but they also add credibility to this innovative technology."

About Spensa Technologies Inc.

Spensa Technologies is a startup housed in the Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette. The company was founded in 2009 by Johnny Park, president and CEO. Spensa's mission is to design, develop and deliver novel technologies for the agricultural industry that will reduce reliance on manual labor, foster eco-friendly farming and enhance crop production efficiency. Their technologies leverage the team's world-leading expertise in wireless sensor networks, robotics and computer vision.

About Purdue Research Park

The Purdue Research Park has the largest university-affiliated business incubation complex in the country in four locations across Indiana. The parks are home to about 200 companies that employ 4,000 people and are located in West Lafayette, Merrillville, Indianapolis and New Albany.

Contact: Steve Martin, 765-588-3342, sgmartin@prf.org 

Source: Johnny Park, 765-588-3592, johnny.park@spensatech.com

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