Even with increased regulation on pesticides in North America, Canada still tolerates significantly more toxins on our crops than Europe, which means we miss out on business when exporting our harvests. Add to that the need for more effective, economical and sustainable pest management and the agricultural sector is facing a sea change.
Enter Vancouver-based SemiosBIO Technologies Inc., which since 2009 has offered SemiosNET, a pest management system for farming that is devoid of neurotoxins. Camera-equipped traps that monitor pest activity are placed throughout a field or orchard, approximately one for every hectare. A central hub then delivers this information, as well as weather data, to SemiosNET software that both records the data and manages the devices. Growers and their consultants then monitor their crops in real time and isolate insect pressure on a precise area, then use remotely controlled dispensers (approximately two per hectare) to spray pheromones; these manipulate the insects’ communication pathways, confusing them so that males can’t find females and the bugs can’t reproduce. In addition to being non-toxic, the pheromone treatments actually cost less than traditional pesticides.
Michael Gilbert, a chemist and chief scientific officer at SemiosBIO, credits the company’s coup in bringing this product to market to good timing: it perfected its alternative to toxic pesticides just as the machine-to-machine technology at the heart of the SemiosNET system became available.
SemiosBIO now has 22 employees, $6 million in capital investment behind it—plus a recent $2.8-million injection from the federal government—and 25 systems in the field in Canada, covering about 1,000 hectares of crops. This year it projects more than 40 systems in Canada, five in the U.S., five in Europe and up to 10 in Latin America. “The company is in a land grab,” says Gilbert. “We want acres.”