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Smart Measures against Wildlife Damage Realized by IoT

Preventing Wildlife Damage to Crops with IoT Technology

Wild boars, deer,  racoons, and other wild animals can devastate crops. For perspective, Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) estimates that the damage caused by wildlife reached approximately 15.8 billion yen in 2019 and has been at a high level since. Wildlife damage also reduces the motivation of farmers to work. Therefore, there are concerns that the problem is even more serious than revealed in those figures.

Wildlife traps  have been set up in mountainous areas where this damage is serious.  Typically, local hunters go to  the sites where they have traps set up every morning  to check whether they have caught harmful animals. However, these hunters have become more elderly in recent years, and the physical burden of capturing harmful animals has become a challenge.

Using IoT to mitigate this is garnering attention. Various IT companies and IoT-related startups  developed the Wildlife Damage Countermeasure Trap Remote Monitoring System to leverage IoT as a solution. Some local governments have conducted experiments on this system or put it into practical use.

This system has a mechanism in which sensors detect when a harmful animal has been trapped. GPS and Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) communication is then used to inform remote administrators that something has been caught. It is possible to plot and display the status of all the traps in an area on a map and to then notify that status to registered e-mail addresses. The system allows hunters to go directly to the locations where harmful animals have been caught, making the process more efficient. 

The seriousness of crop damage is not limited to Japan. Some East Asian countries have prohibited hunting due to a history of overhunting wild animals. As such, there are now cases of overpopulation with certain animals as a result.

For example, reports of foraging damage caused by sika deer have become more serious in Taiwan's national parks. There are also reports that the populations of wild boars and roe deer have increased significantly in recent years throughout Germany and Austria in Europe, which is leading to control through hunting. It is believed that the fall in the number of animals dying in midwinter due to global warming has also had a significant impact. By leveraging IoT for wildlife population management, it may be possible to build a society in which humans and wild animals coexist.

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Overcoming Cost and Battery Life Issues: Expectations for Data Utilization

Trap monitoring systems have long been used in regions where wildlife damage is severe. However, regular trap monitoring devices face problems such as high communication charges and short battery life. IoT technology is being utilized to solve these issues. The implementation of efficient animal trap monitoring systems has started to spread by combining compact and low-power-consumption sensors and ultra-low-power consumption LPWA communication technologies with inexpensive communication charges.

It is hoped that it will be possible to identify the locations and times when harmful animals are liable to be captured by analyzing cloud data obtained with wildlife trap monitoring systems. Moreover, areas where crop damage is severe face many issues, including limited connectivity and difficulty using commercial power supplies. Therefore, experiments are being conducted on measures against blind zones using wireless relays and the construction of systems using renewable energy (e.g. solar power generation).

In this way, fishing, agriculture, and other industries are promising fields where industrial innovation is expected through the expansion of IoT.

Incidentally, there are many instances where the meat of wild boars, deer, and other animals caught in traps was discarded in the past. However, there are also many cases in which this meat is now being supplied to local restaurants in response to the recent boom in consuming wild game. On the other hand, it is said that the quality of the wild game meat drops if it is not post-processed in the shortest possible time after being caught. If hunters can go to traps immediately after animals have been caught, they will be able to significantly shorten the time up to this processing work. This means that the utilization of IoT is also playing a role in the stable provision of safe and tasty wild game.

From Hokkaido to Kyushu, efforts that combine wildlife damage measures and wild game are spreading throughout Japan. Efforts are also being promoted as part of regional development by some local governments. These include selling processed wild game products as special products.

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