Chirping sparrows are a constant headache for farmers, who fear more than anything that the birds will pilfer their rice paddy and millet farm harvests. The Taitung District Agricultural Research and Extension Station has come up with a “solar-powered dummy bird repellent.” Experimental farmland using the repellent had a 30 percent higher harvest rate than the average farm. Other advantages include protecting the environment by saving energy and economizing on labor.
Tseng Hsiang-en, an assistant researcher at the station, says that Taitung County has the greatest amount of farmland devoted to the cultivation of millet in all of Taiwan. Millet is also a special traditional crop among Aborigines, Tseng says. During the month before harvest, however, millet is often picked at by birds, Tseng says, adding that if no preventative measures are taken as much as 95 percent of the harvest can be lost.
Conventional farmers can only hire workers to physically drive away the birds, which Tseng says can cost up to NT$39,000 for each worker per hectare during a single harvest. Tseng says it is excruciating labor because each worker must stand under the sun for at least eight hours every day. Hopefully the new device will help lessen the burden for farmers, Tseng says. In three consecutive experimental millet harvests, the station discovered that preventative measures during the spring harvest for Asian rice were highly effective, Tseng says, adding that rice farms using the repellent had a 30 percent greater harvest than farms using only humans to drive away birds.
The bird repellent uses a solar-powered panel as its power source and stores power in an accumulator, allowing the device to run autonomously in the field. As soon as the first rays of sunlight hit at dawn, the circuit board detects even the slightest bit of power being generated in the solar-powered panel, and immediately flips a switch to start up a DC motor to power the scarecrow’s mechanized arms. A conducting wire is wrapped around the ends of the arms, which pulls on a noisemaker that makes sounds to imitate the way a human would try to scare off birds. At dusk the electricity switches off and the devices stops running.
In the event of unremitting cloudy or rainy conditions, Tseng says that, if the solar-powered panel does not produce enough electricity, an internal battery system provides a continuous power source. A utility model patent was acquired for the technology, which has been transferred to manufacturers, Tseng says.
(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)