Control tools and technologies for established pest animals and weeds competitive grants programme

​​​​Every year pest animals and weeds cost our farmers around $4 billion in livestock losses, disease transmission and controls and weed management costs.

The Australian Government is supporting farmers and the community to tackle established pest animals and weeds through the Control tools and technologies for established pest animals and weeds competitive grants programme.

On 2 May 2017, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP, announced 23 projects​ that are being funded under the programme from 2016-17 to 2018-19. The projects will share up to $10.5 million in funding to strength Australia’s management of significant pest animals and weeds.

The programme is part of the $50 million investment in the Established Pest Animals and Weeds measure of the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

The grant guidelines for this round can be found below.

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Additional funding rounds for competitive grants and/or targeted grants may be used to fill identified gaps at a later time.

List of projects

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Optimizing Felixer; an automated grooming trap for the targeted control of foxes and cats

Delivered by: Ecological Horizons Pty Ltd, partnering with Wild Spy Pty Ltd, Applidyne Australia Pty Ltd

Felixer grooming traps control feral cats by automatically squirting poison onto their fur that they ingest via compulsive grooming. The project will optimise the trap to improve its efficacy against foxes and to prevent triggering by working dogs and pet cats. These box-like traps are set passively adjacent to a fence, gate or animal path. Initial trials suggest that the trap is lethal to cats but not native species due to the target specific triggering mechanism and the fact that few native species compulsory groom. This will enable the trap to be used in both agricultural and conservation settings.

Parasites (Eimeria intestinalis and Eimeria flaviscens) as additional biocontrol agents for the European rabbit

Delivered by: Invasive Animals Ltd, partnering with SA Department of Primary Industries and Regions

Eimeria intestinalis and E. flavescens are the most pathogenic of rabbit-specific coccidian parasites. They have only been detected (by microscopy) in Australia at Wellstead in south-west WA, with E. flavescens also reported from Macquarie Island. Both species were absent from 5 locations in NSW, four locations in the ACT and one location in Qld. In their ongoing assessment as potential new rabbit biocontrol agents, this project seeks to utilise genomic analysis to confirm their presence at Wellstead. Similarly, confirming their absence at selected widespread rabbit study sites would support their potential as new rabbit biocontrol agents.

Development and implementation of site specific tools to reduce herbicide use and herbicide resistance in weeds

Delivered by: University of Southern Queensland

This project proposes developing a mapping and machine vision weed identification system to fill the gap in existing precision agricultural technology, interfacing with existing sprayers for application, delivering a commercial ready solution. The solution will cut herbicide use and hence cost to the farmer as well as combat herbicide resistant weeds by integrating with the best management practice of Integrated Weed Management (IWM) promoted by the grains, cotton and sugar industries.

Improved detection methods of multiple pest animals and weeds through the use of thermal and 4K imaging technologies

Delivered by: NSW Department of Primary Industries, partnering with Airborne Technologies Australia

Recent developments in both thermal and 4K imaging technologies could allow for opportunities to improve the detection of pest animal and weed species in landscape scale aerial surveys, allowing for faster flying times at reduced costs. Incorporating drone technologies with these improved imaging technologies could allow individual land managers to detect pests and weeds more efficiently on a property level. This project will evaluate the practical application of these technologies as both regional and property-level pest management tools and evaluate, customise and trial computer vision technologies for the detection of pest animals recorded in digital video.

A DNA-based tool for rapid on-site identification of Chilean needle grass and Serrated tussock grass

Delivered by: NSW Department of Primary Industries

Chilean needle grass and serrated tussock are introduced Weeds of National Significance that displace palatable grasses from pastures, decrease productivity of grazing livestock, and significantly degrade biodiversity in native grasslands. These two weeds are capable of rapid spread and massive seed-set and are expanding their established ranges in Australia. Their abatement is costly, so it is economically imperative to prohibit their expansion into novel areas of Australia. Rapid in-the-field identification of the weeds using a portable genetic tool to distinguish them from similar appearing native grasses would accelerate their detection outside of established areas and facilitate early management responses for their abatement.

Increasing the target-specificity of the Canid Pest Ejector for fox control

Delivered by: NT Department of Environment and Natural Resources

The project will engineer and field-trial a collar for the Canid Pest Ejector, a spring triggered device that fires a chemical dose into the mouth of canids. The project aims to allow foxes, but not dogs, to trigger the device. Field trials will be conducted at a large scale (2500 km2) at two sites in the southern Northern Territory where both foxes and dingoes are present.

Coupling computer vision recognition of pest animals with automated pest control actions in a remote recognition and response device

Delivered by: WA Department of Agriculture and Food, partnering with NSW Department of Primary Industries, and the University of New England Armidale

This project will develop a “Remote Recognition and Response” device to assist land managers to remotely undertake species-specific vertebrate pest control. The device will consist of on-device, species-specific computer vision detection of vertebrate pests, coupled with an automated action. These actions could be any of number of automated tasks, however, as proof-of-concept gate operation will be focussed on, to allow access to anthropogenic water. Water access is critical to stock and pest management in rangelands environments. Enabling land managers to undertake control activities remotely will increase effectiveness and cost efficiency of existing pest control tools.

e-Technology Hub – Intelli-Traps: Utilising Technology to improve pest management effectiveness and enhance welfare outcomes

Delivered by: Invasive Animals Ltd

This project will pioneer development of next generation automation technologies for pest animal control. Advanced computer vision and machine learning algorithms coupled with artificial intelligence to develop devices which can see, think and act to target specific pest animals. Three applications for this technology will be piloted. First a sentinel automated baiting station for wild dogs and foxes; second a feral cat lure device and, third an autonomous pig/goat/deer trapping station. All applications are significant innovations that automate manual actions resulting in land manager labour savings, and paving the way for further applications across a wider cohort of pest species.

Biological control and taxonomic advancement for management in the Noogoora burr complex

Delivered by: NSW Department of Primary Industries, partnering with Cotton Research and Development Corporation

This project seeks to develop a bioherbicide for species and/or hybrids within the Noogoora burr species complex from an existing, naturally occurring fungal pathogen agent (Alternaria zinniae). Species within the Noogoora burr complex are major weeds of irrigated and dryland cropping, pasture and rangeland systems, waterways and riparian zones. Bioherbicide development is currently constrained by taxonomic confusion within the complex. DNA sequencing will help clarify the current recognised morphological distinctions between the complex and hybrids found in the field to ensure the efficacy of the agent against the species.

Native parasitic plant for bio-control of several designated weeds of national significance in Australia

Delivered by: University of Adelaide, partnering with SA Department of Primary Industries and Regions

This project aims to enable use of a native parasitic plant, Devils Twine (Cassytha pubescens), to control several Weeds of National Significance (WoNS) that have devastating socio-economic and environmental effects. Through field/glasshouse trials the project intends to determine optimal strategies for deploying Cassytha Pubescens on WoNS that could be adopted by stakeholders, and ascertain if this native bio-control poses a significant threat to native species. If successful, there would be reduced need for chemicals/machinery, a more cost-effective sustainable approach to WoNS control and, by conserving natural resources, enhancement of water/land use, agricultural capacity/yields all resulting in well-being of our clean primary industries and nation.

Improving and developing tools to manage Parkinsonia and Mesquite in the Pilbara region

Delivered by: Pilbara Mesquite Management Committee Inc, partnering with WA Department of Parks and Wildlife, University of Queensland, and Bioherbicides Australia

This project will test and improve the effectiveness and efficiencies of three emerging declared weed management tools and techniques against current methods building on 60 years of Mesquite and Parkinsonia management in the Pilbara. The project will be conducted on pastoral properties with high production and biodiversity values complementing current management programmes and providing spatially and temporally realistic results.

Technology to reduce the costs and complexity of establishing ‘Judas’ animals: Enhancing adoption of this effective technique in pest management

Delivered by: Charles Darwin University, partnering with NT Department of Primary Industries and Resources, and the NT Department of Environment and Natural Resources

This project aims to develop substantially cheaper and simpler-to-use animal locating technology and attachment techniques for ‘Judas’ animal-pest-control applications; a ‘Judas animal’ meaning pest animals that reveal the location of other pest animals through tracking devices.

The ‘Judas’ animal technique has proven highly effective in controlling some of Australia’s most destructive vertebrate pests. However, wide-scale application of the technique has been compromised by the need for expensive equipment and professional operators. The outputs of this project will circumvent these issues, enabling farmers and land managers to implement the ‘Judas’ animal technique themselves, and integrate it into routine operations. This will result in a more wides-spread and persistent application of this targeted method of pest animal control.

The integration of splatter gun technology into control strategies for high priority rangeland weeds in northern Australia

Delivered by: QLD Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, partnering with Desert Channels Queensland Inc

The use of splatter gun technology (low-volume high-concentration herbicide applications) will be advanced for high priority rangeland weeds in northern Australia. The primary objective is to provide a practical herbicide option for remote and difficult to access areas that will allow effective control of infestations or open them up for follow up control using techniques such as fire. The project will focus on three Weeds of National Significance (gamba grass, prickly acacia, rubber vine) and chinese apple, an emerging weed problem in northern Australia.

Quantifying feral pig populations using aerially deployed thermal sensors

Delivered by: WA Department of Agriculture and Food, partnering with Murdoch University, and WA Department of Parks and Wildlife

Feral pigs significantly impact on agricultural productivity and environmental resources, and occur in every State and Territory of mainland Australia. Effective management of feral pig populations requires accurate methods of assessing abundance/density changes in response to control interventions or environmental changes. Thermal sensors can increase detection rates of cryptic species such as feral pigs, overcoming difficulties associated with monitoring populations. This project will evaluate the effectiveness of aerially deployed thermal sensors through comparison with traditional monitoring techniques in detecting feral pig population response to management activities. It will also undertake a comparative cost benefit analysis of the techniques.

Developing biological control solutions for Tropical soda apple

Delivered by: CSIRO, partnering with Kempsey Shire Council

Tropical soda apple (Solanum viarum), is a weed of agricultural significance as it reduces cattle stocking rates, limits stock movement and can act as a reservoir for pests of crops. A leaf feeding beetle (Gratiana boliviana) has been successfully used as a biological control agent against this weed in Florida. It is unknown if this insect will be safe enough for release into Australia to control Tropical soda apple; assessing this will be the principal goal of this project. Assessing biological control tools now will enable a back-up management strategy to be rapidly available, should eradication efforts for Tropical soda apple fail.

Controlling wild radish weeds through molecular interference with sexual reproduction

Delivered by: CSIRO, partnering with University of Melbourne

Wild radish is a global weed of disturbed native environments and agricultural regions. In Australia, wild radish’s estimated impact on the wheat industry alone is $70 million p.a., a figure likely to increase given the rapidity with which it is developing resistance to traditional herbicides. This project will develop new methods to interfere with sexual reproduction in wild radish through the application of a naturally-occurring protein delivered as a spray. Blocking sexual reproduction will prevent wild radish from producing seed. This could be a ground-breaking tool to aid farmers and land managers in controlling this major weed.

Expanding the capability of misting herbicide application for woody weeds in the rangelands

Delivered by: Desert Channels Queensland Inc, partnering with Southern Gulf Catchments, Qld Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (Biosecurity Queensland), PBE Services Pty Ltd, and Land and Sea Rangers)

This grant will enable the development of methods to safely use the misting herbicide application amongst diverse woody weed scenarios in the rangelands. The focus will be on rubber vine, bellyache bush and prickly acacia, where misting has found to be effective. Currently misting is only permitted for prickly acacia in open rangeland scenarios. Further application of the misting technique is proposed in constrained locations such as in woodlands that contain a high density of low growth weed infestations for an expanded range of weeds. The development and permitting of safe misting practices in such scenarios will complement and add to the suite of tools available for landholders to manage woody weeds in the rangelands.

Improving the accuracy of weed killing robots with new image processing algorithms and Near Infra-Red spectroscopy techniques

Delivered by: James Cook University

Automated weed species recognition remains a major obstacle to the development and industry acceptance of robotic weed control technology. Particular problems occur in rangeland applications, including high light variability and weed-camera distance variability, which cause camera dynamic range problems, image blurring, and occlusion by other plants. This project aims to develop robust image recognition systems combined with Near Infra-Red spectroscopic methods for these complex rangeland environments with special emphasis on the broad-acre grazing pastures in North Queensland. The developed imaging systems will be suitable for all weed killing applications with particular emphasis given to foliar spot-spraying and Herbicide Ballistic Technologies.

Using microwaves to control Gorse seed banks and bulbs

Delivered by: Western Australian Agriculture Authority

This project will develop the equipment and criteria for using microwaves to destroy intractable hard seed banks of gorse and bulbous species. The technology will be applicable to other weeds like bedstraw, wattles and resistant weeds. In WA, gorse infestations are very small and under an eradication programme. However, the longevity of the soil seed bank means programmes must run for decades to be effective. Microwaves have provided control of buried gorse seeds in pots. Equipment and the criteria for the best field practices will be developed so that eradication of weeds can occur in a single year.

Herbicide Discovery for Australian WONS Based on Developments in the Bioisostere Concept

Delivered by: University of Queensland, partnering with Bayer AG, Crop Science Division, Boron Molecular Pty Ltd, and CSIRO

Broad spectrum herbicides (BSHs) play an important role in the control of Australian Weeds of National Significance (WONS). However, BSHs are limited in number and not totally effective (e.g., neutralised by resistance), and can induce non-target toxicity. More advanced BSHs will therefore be targeted with newly-developed chemistry through an international collaboration of academic and industrial scientists. Synthetic chemistry, plant biology and structural biology are combined to develop a pipeline for new BSHs to protect Australia’s farm/grazing lands. The underlying bioisostere technology, as modified at UQ, will result in new chemical entities that are more effective against WONS than the current limited set of herbicides.

Preventing seed set in weedy tree species

Delivered by: MidCoast Council, partnering with Hunter Local Land Services

This research will test known products in Australian conditions that are currently registered for use in the USA potentially leading to registration for commercial use in Australia. The chemical promotes "Premature abscission of flowers," to assist in the reduction of seed set in weedy trees that may be listed as heritage, or be of some other culturally significant status. A new product in the "weed management tool belt" will assist with a multi-faceted approach to a host of complex social, economic and environmental issues, by allowing land managers to maintain "significant trees" that may be weedy in communities and threatening biodiversity in surrounding areas of high ecological or agricultural value and/or allow for long term tree replacement schemes to be implemented before the complete removal of certain problematic species. This project has value for extension to all areas of Australia.

Depletion of Chilean needle grass seed banks using essential oil products

Delivered by: NSW Department of Primary Industries

Chilean needle grass (CNG) (Nassella neesiana) is a significant weed of native grasslands and sown pasture in southern Australia. Herbicide application is an important tool in the management of CNG, but the results are variable and most land managers use herbicides every year. With regular use there is potential for the development of herbicide resistance. The extensive use of synthetic herbicides is also seen as undesirable for the environment. Essential oils have been shown to have a residual effect on a number of weed species including those in the same genus as CNG. This project will investigate the potential of essential oil products to reduce mature CNG plants and deplete soil seed banks in sown and native pastures.

Enhanced landscape scale management of feral pigs and buffalo in large remote landscapes with new technologies enabling real-time data, modelling and analytics

Delivered by: CSIRO, partnering with Aak Puul Ngangtam, Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation, Kalan Enterprises, and James Cook University

In remote Northern Australia properties are vast with limited seasonal access. In these large connected landscapes feral pigs and buffalo are controlled on an annual basis with limited success despite significant investment in time and money. Here we propose to develop an Internet of Things low power network connected with advanced low cost tracking devices and big data analytical techniques to develop a real time pest species tracking system including environmental sensors.

Using these data, scientists and land managers will work together to develop end user products that will be used to inform strategic integrated pest management programmes.

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