In a world with increasing demand for food and energy, effective and long-lasting animal control is crucial. Animals are drawn to agricultural areas for food, but this leads to consequences for both animals and farmers. Chemical poisons are often used to control rodent populations in areas where they destroy crops, eat livestock feed and can transmit disease. However, studies have shown that anticoagulant rodenticides contribute to the deaths of a variety of mammal and bird species. The poison accumulates in the food chain, so for animals that prey on or scavenge rodents this repeated exposure may be fatal. Meanwhile, farmers continue to lose billions of euros each year as a result of damage to crops caused by animals. A virtual fence is a promising solution for containing animals in an area or keeping them out of a defined range.
The LIFE Laser Fence project aims to develop an innovative technology, Agrilaser, to keep animals away from agricultural fields. It will be demonstrated in Scotland and Spain. The technology involves using a laser fence as an alternative to chemicals or harmful barriers. It addresses animal welfare concerns and will help stop the loss of biodiversity due to poisoning, in compliance with the EU Biodiversity Strategy. It also forms part of a broader strategy for creating a non-toxic environment, in support of EU Regulation REACH (No 1907/2006) and EU Regulation No 528/2012. The project’s main objectives are to demonstrate: Reduced exposure to toxic chemicals through the application of innovative laser systems, preventing poison entering food chains; The use and improvement of laser systems to reduce impacts on non-target species of birds and animals in ecologically sensitive areas, where nature conservation increasingly conflicts with agriculture; and Cost-efficient agricultural management practices for preventing animals intruding into fields, thanks to the incorporation of non-harmful technologies such as laser fences and drones. These are becoming an accurate and cheap (e.g. low operating costs) means of monitoring farmlands (and decreasing yield losses), especially in areas that are protected or difficult to reach over long distances. The demonstration to farmers and land owners of the positive economics of this sustainable practice will promote its scale-up and replication in other areas.
Expected results: Demonstrate that the technology allows for the use rodenticide to be eliminated in the two participating areas compared to the situation before the project: Scotland (0.006 kg/month) and Spain: (0.005kg/month); Savings of around 1 620 kg of rodenticide over three years (9 000 ha), with an anticipated 4 860 kg saved from entering the trophic chain three years after the project; Demonstrate that the Agrilaser technology allows for a significantly lower exposure of birds to herbicides and pesticides by 80% in the project areas; Enhanced ecosystem services, notably an increase in biodiversity, by preventing poison entering the trophic chain; CO2 emissions reduction as a consequence of rodenticide reductions; Decrease in crop losses caused by animal intrusion in the protected agricultural fields by 50%; and Increased awareness and dissemination of alternative methods for reducing the use of chemicals to control animals damaging agricultural production, and the impact of chemical in the environment (e.g. health, biodiversity).