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Irish Deep Tech Uses Artificial Intelligence to Monitor Invasive Insect Species in Europe

Automated insect monitoring will help prevent huge amounts of crop loss and save both time and money for farmers.

Tyndall National Institute, in partnership with Teagasc, is conducting a collaborative European research project named ‘HALY.ID’, which aims to monitor and sustainably manage Halyomorpha halys (HH) the brown marmorated stink bug, a highly invasive insect species. The project is using drone technology and Artificial Intelligence to automate the monitoring process, which was traditionally managed manually. 

Halyomorpha halys (brown marmorated stink bug) in European Orchard

Halyomorpha halys (HH), is an invasive shield bug native to East Asia, which has been detected in Europe with sporadic transient identifications in the UK since 2018. This is a worrying development as the insect can cause malformed fruit when feeding, and potentially damage significant amounts of tree fruit crops, as well as some vegetable and arable crops. Brown marmorated stink bugs can also be an annoyance when they migrate into dwellings to hibernate, where they emit a foul odour.  

The bug was first seen in Italy in 2012, resulting in significant economic losses within just two years.  The invasive species has continued to spread northwards, with sightings of two adult male Halyomorpha halys in the UK in 2020. 

The arrival of this species in Europe is concerning, as huge amounts of crop production are already lost each year due to insect pests. Insect monitoring plays a crucial role in the mitigation of crop damage. Traditionally, farmers use pheromone-loaded sticky traps to monitor insect pest species, with these traps manually checked periodically, to estimate the type and quantity of the insect. 

This is a time-consuming and labour intensive task, which often requires a high level of entomological expertise. To combat this challenge, the HALY.ID project is automating the insect monitoring process. 

The automated method involves the use of drone technology, image analysis, and a low-cost and low-power Microcontroller Unit (MCU) device that performs all data processing using Artificial Intelligence.  

The system uses an algorithm to extract regions that the invasive insect is suspected to be, and then runs a lightweight Deep Learning on them for classification. 

It is a low-power battery device used during growing seasons. The images are taken at night to control light intensity and minimize other sources of illumination. 

Technology used to monitor Halyomorpha halys (brown marmorated stink bug)

Brendan O’Flynn, Head of Group, Tyndall said: “As the world’s population grows, food security is becoming increasingly important. We are proud to collaborate with international partners to develop a smart sensing system, ensuring our European orchards continue to provide high-quality food produce. We are working alongside international experts in agriculture; Teagasc in Ireland, as well as European partners Imec, the Italian Universities in Perugia and Modena and the Technical University of Braunschweig in Germany, to develop impactful technologies.”

Michael Gaffney, Entomologist and Senior Research Officer, Teagasc said: “Monitoring for Pest and Diseases is a fundamental first step in the successful implementation of Integrated Pest Management strategies in commercial horticultural production. Developing technologies that automate the detection of harmful pests, reducing the time and labour input required, while also reducing the gap between monitoring events to a single day, will hopefully assist growers in detecting the pest early in the Spring when the pest numbers are low, where crop protection interventions are most effective.” 

This newly developed automated Insect monitoring tool was deployed in an Italian Orchard in February 2023.