Irish researchers create AI system to monitor invasive stink bug

3 Apr 2023

The invasive species Halyomorpha halys, known as the brown marmorated stink bug. Image: Tyndall National Institute

The automated insect monitoring system aims to prevent crop loss across Europe and save both time and money for farmers.

Irish researchers are testing an AI system to monitor an invasive insect species in Europe, in a bid to protect the continent’s food sources.

Tyndall National Institute has partnered with Teagasc on the project, which aims to monitor and manage the Halyomorpha halys insect using AI and drone technology.

Halyomorpha halys is an invasive shield bug native to East Asia, which was first spotted in Italy in 2012 and has since spread to other parts of Europe.

The insect is known to cause significant damage to various types of crops and also emits a foul odour when it hibernates in dwellings, leading to its other name – the brown marmorated stink bug.

Traditionally, Tyndall said farmers use sticky traps that have to be constantly checked to monitor the quantity of these insects.

The European project, called Haly.ID, aims to save time and money for farmers by automating the process using a combination of drones, image analysis and a low-power microcontroller unit device that performs data processing. The insect monitoring tool was deployed in an Italian orchard in February.

A white device with brown dots on it, with trees and a building in the background.

The technology used to monitor the brown marmorated stink bug. Image: Tyndall National Institute

This system uses an algorithm to locate regions that the invasive insect is suspected to be and then runs “deep learning” for classification.

Deep learning has previously been defined as using artificial neural networks in a way that mimics how the human brain works.

Tyndall head of group Brendan O’Flynn said the organisation is collaborating with European partners such as Imec, Italian universities in Perugia and Modena, and the Technical University of Braunschweig in Germany to develop “impactful technologies”.

“As the world’s population grows, food security is becoming increasingly important,” O’Flynn said. “We are proud to collaborate with international partners to develop a smart sensing system, ensuring our European orchards continue to provide high-quality food produce.”

Last year, Tyndall scientists created a sensor tech to let farmers know in real time what the nitrate levels in the soil are, in order to reduce pollution from fertilisers.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic