A blueberry farm in Oregon was facing a big problem with birds who were stealing up to 25% of their crops. This year, they addressed the problem using an unconventional technology. When the blueberry season began, the farm installed 6 Agrilaser Autonomics. These are automated laser guns which are mounted on a pedestal. The laser guns shoot a steady green laser beam across the bushes. The birds mistake laser for an incoming predator and immediately flee whenever the laser light comes closer to them.
Bird Control Group, the company that makes these lasers claims that their technology has reduced the number of birds on the farms by 99%. The farmers also believe that the lasers have saved around 262, 500 kilograms of blueberries which means they saved around $99,733. It took four years to develop the laser. The bird control group tested various colors, wavelengths, and beam widths. They finally decided on a wide, green beam, and applied filters to it to reduce the amount of harmful infrared radiation. Steinar Henskes, CEO of the company said, “We learned the characteristics of what we call the ultimate laser beam for dispersing birds.”
He further added, “We researched the color that sends the most amount of signals from the birds’ eye to the brain, so it’s perceived as more intense. It’s roughly eight times more effective than red, for example.” Another reason for the success of the laser is its sweeping pattern. The company tested many patterns and found that some patterns were more effective than others to keep the birds away. The laser pattern is customized for each site to make them as effective as possible.
These lasers are not only used in the farms around the world but are also used in settings such as airports and oil rigs. The laser technology is now being used at more than 6000 facilities all over the world. Birds can get accustomed to other methods but this method can remain effective for many years after installation. The problem with this method is that it doesn’t come cheap and each laser gun costs around $10,000. Most places will need more than one laser gun to be effective against the birds.
There are more than 12,000 bird species in the world and the laser doesn’t work on every single one of them. It works best on the birds who have natural predator instincts. The birds who are predators are not affected by them. However, these birds are not a problem for the farmers. Some people have also expressed their concern that the lasers might be doing some unintended harm. Bradley Blackwell said, “We know very little about how the power, beam characteristics, and wavelengths affect the visual system of birds, across bird species, or other species. Are we doing damage to the vision of these animals? What power levels and wavelengths will suffice for dispersal results, but pose no injury? Currently, we do not know the answers.”
There is no doubt that the lasers are getting results, however, the long-term consequences of its use are still unknown. Blackwell recommends that people shouldn’t purchase these lasers until they are better understood. Over 100 US farms have already adopted the technology and this number is expected to triple by the end of the year.