The Council of Agriculture yesterday introduced a solar-powered scarecrow that has helped farmers increase harvests by about 30 percent.
The inventor of the eco-friendly device is Tseng Hsiang-en (曾祥恩), a technical specialist at the council’s Taitung District Agricultural Research and Extension Station.
Taitung County is the nation’s largest producer of foxtail millet, a traditional crop planted by Aborigines, Tseng said. However, if farmers are not careful enough to drive away the birds that feed on the plant about a month before harvest, crop losses can reach as high as 95 percent, he said.
The most effective way to scare away the birds is to recruit people to watch over the field. However, it costs about NT$39,000 to hire a worker to keep watch for 13 hours each day over a hectare of farmland for a season, Tseng said.
Watching the birds and people at work gave Tseng the inspiration for his solar-powered scarecrow, which makes loud noises when it moves its arms to scare away the birds. The sound comes from several noise-making devices attached to the scarecrow’s arms.
The new scarecrow is also environmentally friendly because it is solar-powered, Tseng said.
“The battery can store enough solar power to keep it working for 15 days, even in cloudy days. It starts storing energy the moment it detects the first glimpse of sunlight early in the morning and automatically shuts off when it gets dark and the birds are gone,” Tseng said.
He said only one scarecrow is needed to oversee a hectare of farmland, and tests in rice paddies have shown that crop yields were about 30 percent higher compared with a paddy without the scarecrow.
The cost of manufacturing a solar-powered scarecrow is about NT$15,000. The Taitung station hopes the device can hit the market next year after the developer receives patent rights and completes technology transfers.