back to article LASER RAT FENCE wins €1.7m European Commission funds

The European Commission (EC) has found €1,777,985 for research on rat-repelling laser fences. The thinking behind the “LIFE Laser Fence” is that birds and rodents chew on plenty of crops, which costs farmers money and reduce productivity. Plenty of farmers fight back using poisons which do the job, but can also prove fatal for …

  1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    Those of us old enough to remember . . .

    . . . will recall the astounding results achieved by the Chinese when they decided to 'deal' with the problem of birds eating crops.

    1. Ralph B

      Re: Those of us old enough to remember . . .

      And it's worth remembering.

      1. John Bailey

        Re: Those of us old enough to remember . . .

        And those of us smart enough to spot the subtle difference in approach between deterrent and elimination will understand why learning a lesson from an entirely different situation is not actually helpful.

        The lasers scare the pests away. They do not kill them.

        1. Ragarath

          Re: Those of us old enough to remember . . .

          I think what is trying to be intimated is that although yes they are pests to the crop, they may also have a beneficial side like that is being overlooked.

          1. Lars Silver badge

            Re: Those of us old enough to remember . . .

            "By April 1960, Chinese leaders realized that sparrows ate a large amount of insects, as well as grains.[3][2] Rather than being increased, rice yields after the campaign were substantially decreased.".

            Rats on the other hand...

            1. Timmy B Silver badge

              Re: Those of us old enough to remember . . .

              Going to have to be a very clever laser that distinguishes rats and pests from protected species that it is illegal to interfere with. In fact that reason will likely make this illegal to use in the UK. Shine this at a natterjack toad or a barn owl and cause them to do something that injures them and you'll be heading for a fine or even prison sentence..

              1. streaky Silver badge

                Re: Those of us old enough to remember . . .

                "Going to have to be a very clever laser"

                This technology has been around for years.

    2. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: Those of us old enough to remember . . .

      "the Poles had to use shovels to clear the embassy of dead sparrows."

      Ouch.

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Those of us old enough to remember . . .

      Either they're testing this near my office, or they should be. A pigeon flew down the chimney next to my desk this morning, and perched on the back of one of our swivel chairs.

      The windows don't open very wide, so I was expecting a bit of a struggle to get the bugger out - and a laser would have come in useful for that too. Managed it with the minimum of flapping and shitting - either from pigeon or me.

      Seems like a better solution than random slaughter of wildlife though.

  2. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Pulsed agrilaser in the 40W range

    But can it be modified to keep the shitty little shitting cats out of my back yard?

    1. Known Hero

      Re: Pulsed agrilaser in the 40W range

      I wouldn't recommend putting a well known cat toy in your garden, you are more likely going to increase the population.

      1. Chris King Silver badge

        Re: Pulsed agrilaser in the 40W range

        "I wouldn't recommend putting a well known cat toy in your garden, you are more likely going to increase the population".

        On the other hand, chasing the red dot isn't so much fun when it's burned on to your retinas.

    2. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: Pulsed agrilaser in the 40W range

      "But can it be modified to keep the shitty little shitting cats out of my back yard?"

      The best method is get a cat. They don't tend to crap in their own garden, and they are territorial, so generally keep other cats away...

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Pulsed agrilaser in the 40W range

        The best method is get a cat.

        Adopt a neighbour's cat and encourage it to treat your garden as its home territory - a strategically placed planter of catnip and the giving of treats works wonders and the really good thing with this approach is that you don't have to worry about actually looking after a cat...

        Otherwise get a Jack Russell, no cats, mice, rats...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Pulsed agrilaser in the 40W range

          I'd advise against giving it too much food, you don't want it getting overly attached, just interested and to know that's a friendly place, then it'll poop elsewhere making your garden part of the heart of it's territory rather than at the edge.

          The key is being nice to it when you see it (or just ignoring it entirely) and putting out small treats every few days, but not daily.

          My granny use to do this all the time, kept the cats out of her flower beds and in her neighbours lol

          1. King Jack
            Thumb Down

            Re: Pulsed agrilaser in the 40W range

            I used to have a cat. Sadly the neighbours kept feeding it. It grew fat, got diseased and died. It stopped coming home as it had no need to. If people want to feed a cat they should get their own, not destroy somebody else's pet.

            1. Known Hero

              Re: Pulsed agrilaser in the 40W range

              @king Jack, sorry to hear that :(

              We currently have the other issue that our neighbours "Ninja cat" sneaking in and nicking our cat's food :D

              1. phuzz Silver badge

                Re: Pulsed agrilaser in the 40W range

                "We currently have the other issue that our neighbours "Ninja cat" sneaking in and nicking our cat's food"

                You can get cat flaps with RFID readers that read the chip in your cat, and only lets the right one(s) in.

                1. Farnet

                  Re: Pulsed agrilaser in the 40W range

                  "We currently have the other issue that our neighbours "Ninja cat" sneaking in and nicking our cat's food"

                  "You can get cat flaps with RFID readers that read the chip in your cat, and only lets the right one(s) in."

                  My Sister has one and worked well for a while, then the neighbours cat worked out he could get in by tailgating (literally) my sisters cat.... they are damn crafty.

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Pulsed agrilaser in the 40W range

        The best method is get a cat

        Unfortunately I'm allergic to cats.

        Otherwise get a Jack Russell

        I do like dogs, but I don't think it would be right to leave the poor thing in a small space on its own for 10-11 hours a day.

        1. TheVogon Silver badge

          Re: Pulsed agrilaser in the 40W range

          "Unfortunately I'm allergic to cats."

          See http://www.hypoallergeniccats.co.uk/

        2. Martin Summers Silver badge

          Re: Pulsed agrilaser in the 40W range

          "I do like dogs, but I don't think it would be right to leave the poor thing in a small space on its own for 10-11 hours a day."

          For some people that's work!

      3. rdhood

        Re: Pulsed agrilaser in the 40W range

        "The best method is get a cat. They don't tend to crap in their own garden, and they are territorial, so generally keep other cats away..."

        Not. PBS (here on the left side of the pond) aired a show of a cat population in a small Brit town. "50 felines from the Surrey village of Shamley Green were fitted with GPS collars and 'cat cams'". In viewing the episode, it was discovered that while cats do avoid each other, they end up "sharing" an area by taking shifts. In fact, they discovered that (for the people who had cat doors), other cats come into their homes while the owners are not there and eat the food and share the house!

        Thus, getting a cat will not eliminate or keep other cats away, it will simply cause your property to be time shared.

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2340714/The-Secret-Life-Cat-What-mischievous-moggies-gets-owners-backs.html#ixzz4OCO7plWc

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Pulsed agrilaser in the 40W range

          Thus, getting a cat will not eliminate or keep other cats away, it will simply cause your property to be time shared.

          What about if you get a lion?

          I admit you may be introducing an even worse poo problem. Although I believe you can sell it to other people to put in their gardens to keep cats away. There's also the problem of food, they're not cheap to feed, and if you're really unlucky, you may be on the menu yourself.

        2. TheVogon Silver badge

          Re: Pulsed agrilaser in the 40W range

          "Thus, getting a cat will not eliminate or keep other cats away, it will simply cause your property to be time shared."

          If the cats consider it native territory, they don't generally crap there, so it still solves the original problem...

    3. agurney

      Re: Pulsed agrilaser in the 40W range

      I use one of these brilliant scarecrows to keep the cats & dogs away from my garden https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jHYV6nJksw - non-lethal, and a great spectator sport.

    4. Fred M

      Re: Pulsed agrilaser in the 40W range

      I've got a 40W CO2 laser (in a laser cutter) and I must admit I have been tempted. The most I have done so far is place some mousetraps in the places where they like to dig and then crap.

  3. malle-herbert Silver badge
    Coat

    I hope the thing only points downwards...

    In case it mistakes an airplane for a large bird...

    1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

      Re: I hope the thing only points downwards...

      I was thinking the same myself, though more in terms of teaching the AI the difference between "small" and "far away".

  4. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    One small step...

    Of course, if they can upgrade the plans to detect humanus humanus and zap them with a 10 gigawatt laser, they'll be able to get BEEEEELIONS of dollars out of the US Defence bucket, and won't need piddling Euro small change.

    1. foo_bar_baz
      Megaphone

      Re: One small step...

      What is "humanus humanus"? Do you mean Pediculus humanus, or perhaps Homo sapiens sapiens?

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: One small step...

      This is what farmers will buy it for.

      It'll play a recording of "Gettt orrff my laaaand" - then shoot you with the shotgun they've just replaced the laser with.

      1. Chris King Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: One small step...

        It'll play a recording of "Gettt orrff my laaaand" - then shoot you with the shotgun they've just replaced the laser with.

        ...followed by "'im were worryin' the sheep !"

        Mine's the one with the copy of Viz in the left pocket...

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Simon Sharwood, Reg APAC Editor (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Interesting article spoiled by SJW journo

      I save my SJW activities, such as they are, for my private time. the Brexit bit was meant to be a bit of a wry gag.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Interesting article spoiled by SJW journo

        > the Brexit bit was meant to be a bit of a wry gag.

        Unfortunately it is not accurate, as the EC does fund projects outside the EU also, as anyone who has walked the streets of Kinshasa or Montevideo would know.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Interesting article spoiled by SJW journo

          > Unfortunately it is not accurate, as the EC does fund projects outside the EU also, as anyone who has walked the streets of Kinshasa or Montevideo would know.

          And btw, *that* ↑↑↑ is a wry gag.

    2. Just Enough

      Re: Interesting article spoiled by SJW journo

      "Unnecessary remoan comment at the end. I come to the site to avoid politicking like this"

      He said, using the politicking terms "SJW" and "remoan".

      Are we using SJW as a term for all opinions we don't care for now?

    3. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Interesting article spoiled by SJW journo

      Wait, Brexit is a "SJW issue" now?

      That abbreviation, which it was arguable had much meaning to start with, surely has no meaning whatsoever by now.

  6. Olivier2553 Silver badge

    It won't work on gecko

    When pointing an, admittedly red, laser at a gecko, he will see it as a possible target, and instead of fleeing, will start chasing it.

    It's a nice way to keep your tropical evenings busy, with a laser pointer and some lizards on the wall.

    1. Coen Dijkgraaf
      FAIL

      Re: It won't work on gecko

      And even birds get used to it after a while.

      I visited a cow barn in the Netherlands where they had this system to deter birds. This system moved the beams around the barn. All that happened is that the birds flew from one part of the barn where the laser was pointing to the other part, and kept feeding, whereas initially it would scare them away.

  7. P. Lee Silver badge
    Pirate

    >Birds apparently “perceive the approaching laser beam as a physical danger” and therefore go away instead of stopping to munch on crops.

    So they starve to death? Is that the outcome we really want?

    We aren't actually short of food, so this is just about profits. Perhaps we should rethink our ecological policy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well done...

      Please go re-read the article, slowly and with someone to help with the big words.

      It's about stopping or cutting back on the use of poison which causes collateral damage through unintended victims and ultimately finds its way back into the human foodchain through a lengthy but documented process.

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      There's a mahoosive difference between (a) killing something whilst also killing a whole load of other things, and (b) detering something whilst keeping it alive. This article is about the latter as an alternative to the former.

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      So they starve to death? Is that the outcome we really want?

      Or they will go and eat some other food that is not protected by lasers.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

        "Or they will go and eat some other food that is not protected by lasers."

        Oh yes, they will.

    4. Stevie Silver badge

      re: So they starve to death? Is that the outcome we really want?

      Yes.

      Death to freeloading beakniks.

  8. Unep Eurobats
    FAIL

    Could still happen after Brexit

    OK, it won't happen in the same way, and maybe not so easily. But academic cooperation takes place all round the world; people who want solutions to a problem can deal with any university that's best placed to supply them. It makes no sense to suggest that the criteria for this sort of collaboration are exclusively political or ideological.

    Enough of the hand-wringing already.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Could still happen after Brexit

      and maybe not so easily

      It's the entire string of maybe-not-so-easily's applied across so many areas like the economy, trade, research, policing, security and travel which is exactly what is worrying so many people. It looks like the government has decided that immigration is the prime concern and everything else should be sacrificed -- if necessary -- upon that altar.

      If curbing immigration would solve enough problems to compensate, maybe then it would be worth it, but I don't see that getting to the root causes of our problems with housing, healthcare, education and the deficit. All that's going to happen is that there will be less money available and these problems will simply get worse. But you don't want to hear any of that hand-wringing, do you?

      1. maffski

        Re: Could still happen after Brexit

        Good news!

        Invention is a public good - it matters not one jot whether the mad scientists laughing as they burn through rat retinas are British, French or Korean.

        Farmer Giles still gets the benefit simply by buying the resulting products.

        So, out of the great pantheon of things that may (or mayn't) be affected by something they we will (or won't) do, leading (or not) to some decisions that no-one can predict, let alone map the consequences off, this is not one of them.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Could still happen after Brexit

          Plus we've got some of the top research universities in the world and so can either remain in the EU research programs (maybe sweetening the deal by upping our budget contribution by a few million) - or if they don't want to play then simply reallocate our share of that budget entirely to our own academics.

          As we're a net contributor we can easily replace any EU funded thing ourselves, given we already fund it at the moment. As that's the meaning of net contributor. And there's still money left over that we already pay out to either bribe the EU to agree to continue doing stuff we want (and keep the existing EU budget) - or take back and spend on doing other things.

          Brexit would have got get very unfriendly indeed for academic cooperation to stop - I'm sure there are more important things to worry about.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Could still happen after Brexit

            > As we're a net contributor we can easily replace any EU funded thing ourselves

            Wouldn't life be really simple if things worked like that?

            Sadly, they don't.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Could still happen after Brexit

      It makes no sense to suggest that the criteria for this sort of collaboration are exclusively political or ideological.

      If only we could get the politicians to understand that.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unless these lasers are on sharks I'm not interested.

    What's to say the birds and rats won't evolve and get those little mirrors you see in their cages at pets at home? This won't end well, it'll be an arms race that ultimately results in davros styled rats with mirrors on their head unable to climb stairs.

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      > it'll be an arms race that ultimately results in davros styled rats with mirrors on their head unable to climb stairs.

      You say that as if it's a bad thing.

    2. TheVogon Silver badge

      "it'll be an arms race"

      Rat race surely?!

  10. tiggity Silver badge

    Species

    I think in Liverpool they might be more bothered about rattus norvegicus than rattus rattus as referenced in the article.

    In the UK the black rat (rattus rattus) is very rare on the mainland - it used to be common but the introduction of the brown rat (rattus norvegicus) several hundred years ago caused it's downfall as the brown rat took over in most places.

    Although some of the last remaining black rat strongholds were ports (such as Liverpool) you would be very unlikely to see one there now.

    1. Unep Eurobats
      Joke

      Re: Species

      "they might be more bothered about rattus norvegicus"

      I think the Stranglers at full volume would scare off all the wildlife for miles around.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Species Stanglers

        the wildlife may be deterred but the crop would be reduced to a mudbath by sliding music fans.

        1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

          Re: Species Stanglers

          Hmm... laser fence around Glastonbury Festival site...

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
            Devil

            Re: Species Stanglers

            We could let them all in each year, then never turn the lasers off again.

            Bonus, there'll be lots of BBC film crews there to film the ensuing carnage. Who wouldn't want to see Coldplay vs. Starving Teenagers in Cannibal Deathmatch - on Dave at 9pm...

  11. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    rattus norvegicus

    He's not been eradicated, he's simply pining for the fjords

  12. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Stop

    So it's basically an iScarecrow ?

    c'mon.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where Do They Go?

    Thing is when you test this kind of thing it is small scale. The rats just move off to fields with no lasers. But if it works and we protect all the fields like this... where do they rats go.

    They'll still be there and still be hungry.

    Time for an updated novel from James Herbert?

    1. Just Enough

      Re: Where Do They Go?

      Hungry rats have fewer baby rats, who in turn have fewer baby rats. End result is fewer rats.

  14. Rocketist
    Coat

    Soooo... it's the Raxit!

    But wait - 40W? What do you do with all those blind rats and birds?

    And more so, what happens when little Johnny comes creeping below the garden fence, looking for a bit of fun, and suddenly has a laser-like enlightening experience?

    Mine's the one with the dark glasses in the pocket.

  15. Timmy B Silver badge

    Roads and cars....

    What happens when this shines across a field at a pigeon, misses and blinds the driver of a car and causes an accident? In fact the more I think about it the more stupid this is. Can anyone think of an actual good reason for having one other than fewer pesticides? We don't need to use pesticides - what we need is promotion of predators. More raptors means less rats - buzzards love them.

  16. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Intelligent?

    Rats and birds are both capable of learning and problem solving. I wonder how long it will take them to realise the the "big scary light" not only doesn't do any actual harm, but handily confirms there is a food source there?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Intelligent?

      As a PP mentioned, scarecrows are hardly new tech, so we have a model to work from ....

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Intelligent?

      Or we just get pigeons and rats wearing dark glasses.

      Hello Rat Fans! Yes, Roland Rat was actually a documentary.

  17. Mike Moyle Silver badge

    Against birds this might work but I'm having trouble seeing it being effective against ground-runners, at least after the plants become tall enough and leafy enough to minimize the light getting to ground level. Add in the fact that, unless you have a laser pointing pretty much straight down each row of crops you're soon trying to shine it across multiple rows of foliage, further blocking the effect. (Also raising the issue of SEEING the critters running under the foliage, in order to target them.)

    Well, I suppose that's what the testing is for.

    ...then too, would it make sense to use red lasers instead of the green one shown in the picture? That way, any light blocked by the foliage would at least be feeding the plants, so the farmer is getting some return for the extra drain on his electric bill!

    1. DougS Silver badge

      If you had a few feet of bare ground surrounding the field two laser scarecrows could handle the whole thing.

      Unless you have hills. Don't know they not all cropland is flat?

  18. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    A great leap forward over spring traps and rubber-handled hammers. Well done scientists.

    But ... gosh, aren't rats accomplished by centuries of practice and evolutionary adaptation in the business of infiltrating by burrowing underground? Indeed, don't soldiers who are expert in tunneling become the proud owners of the soup-briquette "tunnel rat" in comparison to the legendary subterranean prowess of the rodent?

    How will the Joint Eurolaser Rat-discourager find them?

    By the tiny, tinny sound of the incidental music to The Great Escape coming from their little ratty iPod earbuds?

  19. Neoc

    Meh

    I don't know about rattus but I'm pretty certain your average corvidae will take at most a few weeks to realise the "fence" is nothing but a light-show. And then a few hours to pass the news around.

  20. HKmk23

    Then of course

    You could uprate the laser to 400w. Job done, the biological residue becomes compost, and Darwins law takes care of the odd collateral damage.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hidden in plain sight

    So it's a target differentiating point defense system in waiting? An automated munitions system (what we used to call 3rd generation mines before mines were banned - but then we though 'why not just change the name and go ahead as planned') just waiting for an upgrade to a lethal projectile system and they will be placed all over the agricultural areas of the EU.

    The Maginot line 2.0?

    They aren't even waiting for us to leave before investing in the EU defenses!

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