10 August 2016
A Star Wars-style research project involving lasers is hoping to turn the tide in the battle between farmers and geese where traditional methods have failed.
Six students from the University of Victoria on Canada's Vancouver Island are using laser technology as a "hi-tech scarecrow" to rid farmers' fields of the perennial avian pest, CBC News reports. Peter Rashleigh, a fourth year mechanical student, who is also a farmer, tells CBC that geese are "very effectively scared by lasers, especially green lasers, even at very low power levels", and that the prototype device closes a gap in the market for an effective, yet harmless bird-scarer.
Mr Rashleigh explains that the beam is no more powerful than a standard laser pointer, so even if a trespasser walks through the field they wouldn't be injured. It also has a safety feature that switches off the laser if it's accidentally aimed above the horizon, so that planes aren't affected.
The device is simply programmed to sweep across a farmer's field at night, and the laser does the rest, he says. The most attractive part for farmers, Mr Rashleigh adds, is that it's less tiring than standing in a field at night waving a laser pointer at geese yourself.
Canada geese are a major problem for farmers, as they have the potential to destroy large areas of crops like wheat and barley if unchecked. Earlier this year, local politicians on Vancouver Island asked authorities to change firearms laws so farmers could hunt the geese for food. One farmer said at the time: "The population is way out of control - when they are hungry, they are just devastating to many crops."