Automatic repellents to prevent animals from attacking crops

It is a product designed to keep animals away from the fields

Ap Naku, 70 years old from Bayling, Trongsa, never had a good sleep after cultivating various crops on his 2 acres of field, before. He sits in an old crumbling hut in the middle of the field – chasing away birds in the daytime and spending sleepless nights beating tin cans, shouting, and patrolling the fields to ward off wild boars among others.

Such practices are done until Ap Naku harvests his crops. This, however, is likely to change as he has installed an automatic animal repellent in his field. And now he need not have to worry about his crops before going to sleep. He just has to keep his phone close to his bed.

“I just have to switch on the automatic stuff, it will keep animals away from the fields,” he said, acknowledging the Agriculture Machinery Center (AMC) for helping him with an automatic animal repellent.

A sensor is fixed in the mouth of the scarecrow that will pick up any movement in the field. Upon spotting the movement, the scarecrow immediately flashes out light, followed by a loud sound. Ap Naku will instantly receive a call from the SIM card installed in the controller about any suspicious intruder in the field.

The model is programmed with the sounds of animals on the top of the food chain such as a tiger or bear to scare away the animals.

Before the stuff is installed, Ap Naku said that the situation was worse for every farmer in the village. “As soon as the sun sets, the wild animals see a barge in the field, and we lost about half an acre of crops to wild animals every year,” he said.

He shared that villagers have tried using cowbells made of tin to ward off wild boars, but the wild animals return in a few minutes, so it is pointless,” he added. 

Now, Ap Naku smiles at a modest animal-repellent technology every evening – a humanoid figure dressed in old clothes with bulging red or blue eyes installed in the middle of the field.

Similarly, Ap Sether, one of the eldest citizens of Bayling gewog under Trongsa, also shared that the people of today’s generation are fortunate because they don’t have to spend the night under rain or wind like in the olden days when we used to spend our nights in a crumbling hut in the midnight.”

The research manager of AMC, Ugyen Phuntsho said that the human scarecrow was created based on the concept of prey and predators in collaboration with the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment.

 “We have the sounds of different predictors,” he said, adding that the human scarecrow has a speaker on it, and when the speaker hears the sound of a predator, the human scarecrow will deter.

Ugyen also shared that the human scarecrow contains a PIR sensor, “Where this PIR sensor upon motion detection gives a signal to Arduino (microprocessor) which in turn gives a signal to turn on the speaker and light.”

When asked how this model works, he shared that with a microcontroller that is installed in the PIR sensor and is connected to the farmer’s phone, they don’t have to go to the field to turn on the system.

“The human scarecrow is made in such a way that it functions both day and night,” he said adding that it is still under the research phase and we are evaluating it just now.

Additionally, Ugyen also said that they are planning to improve the model in near future including movement. “Planning to feature more and movements like a human being,” he said.

The cost of one set of human scarecrows is Nu 15,000, but they are giving them away for free to farmers for them to evaluate the technology’s effectiveness.

AMC’s Program Director, Kinga Norbu also shared that he is not sure whether that will help farmers or not, but as a trial, they had also installed the model in Sarpang for intruders against elephants. 

He also shared that the main motives for developing such technology were mainly to deter wild animal intruders from entering the farmer’s field.

“Currently, we had installed human scarecrow at Bayling and Baling under Trongsa district, and will be further expanded in Zhemgang Dzongkhag as well as in other Dzongkhag based on the request from district administration,” he added.

Meanwhile, the center will continue incorporating other features in the prototype to discourage animals to get habituated to it.  Moreover, they will continue to improve the technology based on feedback from farmers.

Ap Naku stands near the model and shares that villager are optimistic about the model and hopes that it will help them.  “I will get to rest and spend time with my family. Now, whenever I see birds or wild animals in the field, all I have to do is to press a button on my phone.”

Nidup Lhamo from Thimphu