Australian horticulture grower reduces bird presence by up to 90%

Marauding birds can be a problem for some specialist horticultural crop growers – as well as West Coast hill farmers – but evidence suggest that using lasers can severely curtail their damage.

Experience gained by Gazzola Farms, in Australia, after it installed the laser bird deterrent in 2018, showed a decreased bird presence of up to 90%.

The business, located near Melbourne, deployed the lasers to solve bird damage to its celery and lettuce crops, being one of the leading vegetable growing operations in Australia.

Since 1932, it has been an Australian family-owned and operated company focussing on providing a variety of lettuce, celery, and Asian greens to sell across Australia.

Based on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula, Gazzola Farms harvests crops all year round, which in turn invites intruders onto the farm. The most problematic uninvited guests are wood ducks.

Currently, Dean Gazzola and his brother, Alex, manage more than 500 acres, but with the large potential crop yield comes the threat of bird damage. This meant that, overnight, Gazzola Farms could lose a $200AUS worth of lettuce as a consequence of the ducks foraging.

Dean Gazzola said bird damage had been much reduced by using the laser bird scarers

Dean Gazzola said bird damage had been much reduced by using the laser bird scarers

This prompted a search for a cost and time-effective solution because limitations of the traditional bird control methods were not appealing to Gazzola. Scare guns, for instance, created a noise disturbance for neighbouring properties and visual methods were not successful as a permanent solution to deter the birds either, as the birds became accustomed to them.

After some time spent searching for an effective solution, Gazzola found an automated laser bird deterrent through EE Muir and Sons (an Australian partner of Bird Control Group, manufacturer of the laser bird repellents. in Delft, Holland).

The latest Avix Autonomic Mark II they bought is a fully automated laser bird deterrent device and it works by projecting a laser beam to effectively spooks birds, but without hurting them. As the green laser beam moves towards the birds they disperse from the area within seconds.

According to a spokesman for EE Muir and Sons: “Birds see the laser beam differently than humans, we see it as a point of light, but birds see the whole beam.

"They perceive it as a solid object, like a stick of light, which triggers the danger aspect instinctively and they feel they’re under attack, therefore, this causes them to leave the area.”

After a few months of deploying the laser bird deterrent device, results were seen immediately. Gazzola Farms achieved a 90% reduction in bird presence. Dean Gazzola said: “I would definitely recommend it to my neighbours as it is easy to use and extremely user-friendly. We will continue to get more until all parts of the farm are covered.”

Pest damage is a an acute problem in Australia, where it is reckoned that almost 90% of all fresh vegetables stocked in supermarkets there are grown in Australia and open to damage.

Australian vegetable growers produce a wide range of vegetable crops for commercial sale to meet the demands of the market and vegetable production in 2018 was the sixth-highest valued agricultural industry in Australia.

The gross value of vegetable production increased in 2018 by 5% to $4.1bnAUS.

But crop damage caused by birds effectively wipes out thousands of dollars of revenue from individual farms each year. According to the Australian Department of Agriculture, there are at least 60 different bird species known to feed on and damage horticultural crops.

With each species possessing marked differences in feeding strategies and movement patterns, getting rid of each and every one of them is a challenging task.