Bug-Sens(ing) the Next Steps

Since winning the Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project (WIP) back in 2012, the Bug-Sensor team, led by Eamonn Keogh, is seeing much success with their project. Bug-Sensor’s project continues to flourish, from tackling computer science and entomological obstacles to seeing these strides published in top-tier peer-reviewed journals. In addition, their progress led to further use of the team’s sensors in labs and in the field in seven different countries.

Bug-Sensor developed a tool for farmers—sensors that can automatically count and classify insects in the field. This technology then translates the information and sends the farmer a daily text message with instructions on the type of intervention necessary (pesticides, for example) and in which specific locations. This allows a more targeted approach to insect pests, ultimately reducing costs for labor and pesticides.

Top Achievements

Winning the Wireless Innovation Project wasn’t the only accolade Bug-Sensor received—they were also awarded a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This foundation works with partner organizations worldwide to tackle critical problems in four program areas: global development, global health, United States, and global policy & advocacy divisions. Bug-Sensor finds themselves in good company as the foundation previously granted companies similar to them who also help farmers’ work, such as TechnoServe Inc. and PATH.

With Gates Foundation support, Bug-Sensor purchased a “netted house” enabling them to raise the insects necessary for their ongoing research. From here, they are working on creating kits, similar to plastic aquariums, that include their adapted sensors. These kits are being sent to high schools and colleges who are running experiments and sending back data to Bug-Sensor. Data collection can be an expensive affair but by utilizing this method of providing opportunities to experiment and teach while collecting data, can be a win-win for all.

From Field Tests to the Future

Since completing field tests at citrus orchards in California, the Bug-Sensor team plans to analyze the data gained and prepare findings for publication, continuing their success publishing in peer-reviewed journals.

Furthermore, they plan to leverage their new relationships to develop a field-hardened version of their sensors, with hopes to take their innovation to greater audiences in the coming months.