The Predator Free 2050 (PF2050) Tools to Market Programme seeks to invest in the accelerated development of new and existing predator control tools and technology by designers and engineers across New Zealand.
The purpose of the Programme is to make smarter, safer and more effective tools and technology available to the Predator Free 2050 community within a one- to five-year timeframe.
Tools to Market directs $1.4m of investment every year and the funding supports the full gamut of steps from proof of concept, through research and development, to prototype testing at a landscape scale with three main goals:
- Refine current predator control tools to make them safer and more cost-effective.
- Develop new or improved tools to eradicate predators at a landscape scale.
- Expand predator control so a range of tools are available for different environments and situations.
Tools to Market was initially allocated approximately $700,000 per annum across four years as part of Predator Free 2050.
Five projects were begun in 2017 and in Budget 2018 the Government committed a further $700,000 per annum across four years to improve the current predator control tools. These are the projects currently underway with one project completed.
Development of an aerially deployed biodegradable rat trap
DOC and Predator Free 2050 Ltd are co-funding the development of a biodegradable rat trap that can be distributed by air to contribute to a predator free Aotearoa.
The aerial micro-trap, which will be designed by conservation technology company Goodnature, stands to be revolutionary for predator control. The trap, still at concept stage, would be dropped by helicopter or drone to target ship and Norway rats across the landscape. After single use, it would then biodegrade into the environment. The aerial micro-trap has the potential to be a cost-effective solution for suppressing rats at landscape scale along with remote and difficult to access locations. Goodnature will design, build, and test a prototype for the micro-trap, in collaboration with DOC. If the product proves feasible, the trap would be produced and sold by the company following this process.
Government funding of $1.3 million over five years for the development of the micro-trap will come from DOC’s Tools to Market programme and Predator Free 2050 Ltd’s Products to Projects fund, backed by the Provincial Growth Fund. Goodnature will also invest significantly in the project.
Research lead: Goodnature Ltd
- Tiny biodegradable rat traps: can be dropped by drone, and leave no trace – Stuff article
- Flying, biodegradable rat traps – Goodnature Blog
- Aerial traps could be a game-changer to help restore nature - Media release by the Minister of Conservation
Development of a new bait to control stoats using PAPP
This project is working on a new pre-made stoat bait containing the toxin PAPP (para-aminopropiophenone) that is easy to use and can be applied across larger areas than existing PAPP bait from the air.
An initial bait station trial was completed in 2019 and a second is underway before moving onto hand laid and finally, if all goes to plan, aerial trials that will test the effectiveness of the new bait when aerially deployed. PAPP is already in use for stoat and feral cat control however it must be made and injected into balls of mincemeat to be used within 48 hours in bait stations.
A new pre-made bait would make PAPP easier to use and enable it to be applied across a larger area from the air. PAPP in this form would be useful in forests and alpine areas where the number of rats and mice is too low for stoats to be controlled with 1080 (which relies on stoats being poisoned when they eat the rodents).
Research lead: DOC
New methods to evaluate the vulnerability of native birds to PAPP
This project is developing methods to estimate the susceptibility of New Zealand native birds to PAPP. If PAPP is to be applied from the air (see project above), it is essential to have a good understanding of how the toxin would affect our native birds if they accidentally ate it.
The methods in development include creating an assay that uses tiny amounts (ideally less than 10 microlitres) of blood from the birds. Effects of different amounts of PAPP on the blood would then be extrapolated to how PAPP would affect a bird at higher doses.
Research lead: Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research
Extending a Norway rat-selective pesticide to also target ship rats
A new pesticide that effectively controls Norway rats has been developed, but two other species of rat – kiore and ship rats – are also present in New Zealand. Ship rats are not as susceptible to the new pesticide as the Norway rat. This project is adapting the formulation and loading of the new pesticide to deliver a lethal dose to ship rats.
Research leads: Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research and Orillion Ltd
Automated pest detection – PAWS ® pest identification sensor pad
This project is developing a low-cost automated device (a sensor pad) to detect and identify pests. It could be used to alert managers of an invasion at pest-free islands and mainland islands. The device relies on the development of algorithms to accurately identify mustelids (stoats, ferrets and weasels).
Working prototypes will be trialled in the field as part of the project and its accuracy checked with cameras with DOC remaining closely involved throughout the testing and pre-production process.
Research leads: Lincoln Agritech Ltd, Boffa Miskell and Red Fern Solutions.
- Lincoln Agritech PAWS pest identification sensor pad
- High tech sensors new weapon in war on pests - NZ Herald
Using drone technology to eradicate predators
The aim of this project is to harness the potential for drones to be a game-changer for pest control and eradication by investigating the use of an adapted heavy-lift drone to distribute pesticide baits.
The project will test how the drone performs in a series of field trials, using a new light-weight bait spreader to apply non-toxic cereal baits over areas between 600 to 2000 ha. It will look at the feasibility and costs of drone use for predator control as well as potential savings in carbon emissions from current aerial methods.
The project is also a case study on the Airspace Integration Programme led by MBIE.
Research lead: Envico Technologies (formerly Environment and Conservation Technologies, ECT)
Developing a long-life multi-species lure
This project began in August 2020 and seeks to develop long-life, non-toxic, non-perishable lure that can attract multiple species. The lure will be developed by testing the behavioural responses of seven species to a range of different compounds (including rats, mustelids and cats) followed by a series of bioassay trials to determine which are the best performing lures for prototype long-lure technologies.
The best lures will be incorporated into the (previously developed) encapsulation devices and tested in the field.
Research lead: University of Canterbury
- Developing long life lures to target pests - Stuff article
- Pest control that makes scents - University of Canterbury
- New pest lures to protect nature - Media release by the Minister of Conservation
Bringing long-life rat lures to market
Controlling rats by attracting them to traps, particularly self-resetting traps, requires having sustained release, long-life lures available. This project has successfully created lures that attract a number of species and is now progressing through to making the products available commercially.
These next steps include identifying the best encapsulation and dispensing technology, trials, cost analysis and full patent application. Once in place, the lure will be available to DOC and its partners to use where appropriate.
Research lead: Victoria University of Wellington