Health Canada Approves Pheromone Product That Confuses Fruit-Eating Moths

May 14, 2015

Fast-growing technology company to ramp up hiring as sales for "smart farming" products escalate.

Health Canada has given farmers the green light to start buying a product that prevents Oriental fruit moths from mating, thereby helping to protect apple and pear crops.

The Vancouver technology company Semios sought the approval to sell pheromone dispensers that release an aerosol spray that confuses the moths and keeps them from recognizing genuine pheromones given off by their species.

“Every insect has a different pheromone,” Semios CEO Michael Gilbert explained to Business in Vancouver May 14.

“That’s the biggest benefit of pheromones. You can target, in this case, the Oriental fruit moth, which is a major pest, and in no way do you confuse, damage or harm beneficial insects, such as bees or different types of wasps, which attack the harmful moth.”

Gilbert’s four-year-old, 30-employee private company is rapidly increasing its revenue and is on track to generate about $3 million this year, he said.

He also expects to hire about 20 new employees by the end of the year – mostly agronomists and software developers.

“Our primary product is a precision farming platform for smart farming,” he said to explain why he needs more software developers.

“We install wireless networks on farms. When you have a wireless network, you can have remotely triggered pheromone dispensers.”

Other products that also rely on wireless networks include one that remotely monitors of insects, another that remotely monitors frost and another that remotely monitors diseases that impact the fruit trees.

“We also have soil moisture monitoring to help with irrigation,” he said.

Apple farmer Lorent Taves told BIV said that he has not noticed Oriental fruit moths being a particular problem but, because infestations can be site specific, he is concerned.

A bigger pest that Taves deals with at his Abbotsford farm is the codling moth.

“Pheromone is a much better way of taking care of the problem of pests than anything else if you look at it from an environmental point of view,” Taves said. “We do a lot of pheromone disruption here instead of using a spray because it is non-toxic so if Health Canada is approving more products like [Semios’ one], I’m all for it.”

Semios already sells its pheromone spray boxes in six U.S. states that have approved their use. Farmers in the U.S. pay US$150 per box with one box required for each acre. Gilbert said that he will start offering the product in Canada for the Canadian dollar equivalent.

Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) has funded Semios' technology with a $2.8 million investment in 2013, when it was known as SemiosBIO. The company also has products to combat bedbugs.

Source: Business in Vancouver