Technology marches onward, changing work processes and management in every industry.

Derksen bruce
Freelance Writer
Bruce Derksen is a freelance writer based in Lacombe, Alberta.

These continually evolving advances are also greatly affecting modern agriculture, including how pests are controlled.

While historic methods favored a combination of mechanical traps and bait, today’s approaches might still include these staples but also feature state-of-the-art tools and equipment aimed to increase efficiency, support the environment and build long-term sustainability.

Technology types and applications

Available technologies range from resettable electronic traps to laser beams, auditory devices, drones and electric shock. They employ variations of Bluetooth connections, artificial intelligence, smart devices, sensors, cameras, CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) gene editing, receptor interference, plus real-time alerts on cellphones, computers and tablets.

“Using technology to improve pest control in agriculture may be a little more challenging than in other industries, as it doesn’t always lend itself as quickly to some of the more rapidly changing developments we see in areas like herbicide applications,” says Roger Baldwin, extension professor with the University of California – Davis Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology.


Baldwin has noticed an increase in technology application for a few areas of livestock-related agriculture. These include the use of drones to map rodent damage or apply burrow fumigants for rodent control using pressurized exhaust machines and carbon dioxide injection devices.

Additionally, bird control technology to mitigate damage is more advanced than some other sectors of agriculture. Examples of this include auditory equipment disrupting bird communications or mechanized laser devices rotating through cropping systems. A bird views lasers almost like a 3D pattern from start to end point, which tends to confuse and frighten them away from these areas.

“The real technological breakthrough in this field is our ability to mechanize and weaponize this,” Baldwin says. “We’re currently capable of randomly distributing laser beams, making it more disruptive for the birds. In the past when lights and sounds were used, they became somewhat predictable. With more random distribution throughout the landscape, it’s a much better longer-term deterrent.”

Genomic innovations and costs

Research is also ongoing analyzing gene-editing technologies that allow scientists to change an organism’s DNA by adding, removing or altering genetic material. Currently, genomes can be changed to manipulate a range of insects destroying large percentages of global crop production each year. Technology to do the same with small rodents is still in the research stage but will be integrated as scientists at government and private institutions learn more about the process.

“In theory, technology provides for more targeted, more efficacious and safer practices,” Baldwin says. “And these targeted and specific goals will have fewer impacts on other species and the environment.”

Baldwin admits the cost of innovation is becoming more affordable, but we still experience limited progress in the field. He hopes these expenses will continue to decline, and benefits will eventually outweigh their costs, allowing agricultural producers to integrate them into their operations.

He believes part of what drives these new innovations is the goal of finding techniques that are more cost-effective and efficacious. They must also reduce environmental concerns and have less impact on nontargeted wildlife.

“If we use a smaller number of tools like poisons, or eliminate those altogether, often innovation and new techniques will present strategies and opportunities to help us reach these goals,” he says.

Rodent control changing

The Automatic Trap Company Inc. is an example of changes occurring in rodent control. They’ve been the exclusive distributor of the Goodnature product line in the U.S. and Canada for seven years, handling direct relationships with universities, corporations and pest control companies, along with managing online sales.

Their revolutionary, automatically resetting traps are CO2-powered. Enticed by an attractant, rodents are lured inside to be instantly incapacitated by a single, powerful pneumatic strike. The trap resets and becomes ready for the next rodent. The uniquely designed attractants continue to draw in more rodents for constant functionality, while dead carcasses are carried away by scavengers without the risk of poisoning.

“Using older-style snap traps can be a messy business,” says Blair Calder, president of Automatic Trap Company. “Plus, it’s not always effective, trapping only legs and tails. No one wants to go searching for a rat partially caught in a trap.”

Poison being phased out due to improved understanding

For multikill purposes, poisoning has long fit the bill.

“The problem with poison is it doesn’t stop killing at the rodent,” Calder says. “The rat eats it, and any number of predators including coyotes, possums, raccoons, bears, falcons, hawks, eagles and other scavengers all feast on the dead rat, in turn becoming poisoned themselves.”

Calder says our ability to understand poison's effect on the bigger picture is improving. We’re realizing how disruptive these toxins are, not only for mice and rats but everything that preys on them. He says every year, 70,000 veterinary calls are placed regarding accidental rodenticide poisoning in the U.S. More and more municipalities, states and provinces are recognizing the seriousness of rodenticides and are making them more difficult to access.

“The U.S. market is heading in this direction,” Calder says. “We’re understanding more of the danger. Simply letting homeowners access industrial-strength toxins isn’t a good idea. Pest control officers still need to use it in certain situations, but we need to have a better strategy.”

Calder believes these operators and related companies are responding to consumer demands as they become more knowledgeable of the dangers of toxic poisoning. In turn, they’re beginning to offer more and more environmentally friendly solutions.

“It’s not possible for us to coexist with rodents,” Calder says. “The impact they have on building structures, properties and, of course, spreading diseases must be minimized. For farmers and ranchers, death is a part of life as they constantly deal with their animals’ life cycles. Technology advances are appealing, as they add value to their own management and performance, plus feature a more humane method of controlling pests.”