Tenn. company licenses ‘Scarebot’ from LSU AgCenter

Richard Bogren, Hall, Steven G.  |  6/6/2011 8:27:55 PM

News Release Distributed 06/06/11

Aquatic farmers and others who have problems with aquatic birds now have a source for a machine that can chase birds off ponds and similar water bodies.

Mt. Pelia Innovative Solutions of Martin, Tenn., recently acquired a non-exclusive license from the LSU AgCenter for a floating robot designed to frighten birds away from crop ponds.

The small, solar-powered boat – called the “Scarebot” – can run unattended for long periods of time at speeds of 5-7 miles per hour, said Steve Hall, an engineer in the LSU AgCenter Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and one of the inventors of the device.

“Predatory birds cause problems for aquaculture farmers because they eat their crops,” Hall said. “In Louisiana, birds such as cormorants and pelicans prey on young catfish and crawfish, which costs producers thousands of dollars each year in lost revenue.”

Besides helping aquaculture industries, the Scarebot has the potential for many other environmental management applications, the inventor says. It could be used for simple tasks such as measuring water quality, biological activity or other environmental variables.

“This can meet a variety of specialty uses a farmer might have, including aquaculture and water quality monitoring,” said John Cole, owner of Mt. Pelia Innovative Solutions and a native of Fulton County, Ky.

Although the device can be configured in a variety of ways, Cole said he foresees developing a basic, off-the-shelf model that could meet many needs.

The machine uses a dual paddlewheel and a solar-powered battery and one or more microcontrollers for navigation, Hall said. It can use feelers to sense the shore or a global positioning system device to operate within “virtual boundaries.”

The Scarebot can remain quiet until it senses a flock of birds, Hall said. Then it can move erratically and shake to chase flocking birds away from fish ponds.

Cole, a professional engineer with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Kentucky, said he discovered the Scarebot while researching for a unique agricultural device that could be turned into a viable product. “I came across it and felt it has a chance of getting attention and finding a market.”

In addition to the Scarebot, Cole’s company is developing other, nonagricultural products, including a hydrokinetic energy barrel and hunting decoys.

Rick Bogren

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