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The presence of wildlife is increasing in several parts of Europe. There are over 400.000 ungulates, mostly deer and wild boar, living in the Italian region of Tuscany. They may cause serious damage to farm crops, resulting in loss of income for farmers. The Operational Group ULTRAREP is working on innovative ultrasonic technology to protect crops from ungulates, in a sustainable way, while not harming the animals.
“Farmers in Tuscany have to deal with wild boars in 80 percent of the cases, followed by roe deer and fallow deer. The situation is alarming and affects almost all viticulture, cereal and oil crops, fruit and vegetable companies. Especially those located in medium-hill areas. For every farmer there are now 5 ungulates, a number that almost doubled in five years. Therefore, we hope that ultrasound technology for the removal of wild ungulates can be an answer”, says Massimiliano Biagi, agronomist and technical director of Barone Ricasoli farm. He is in charge of the Operational Group ULTRAREP, which stands for ULTRAsound Animal REPeller.
The consortium for the Operational Group consists of 10 partners, including four farms and two research partners. Two of the farms are located in the hilly vine/wine district of Chianti Classico, one in the area of Val di Cornia for horticultural production and one farm in a mountainous area for forest plants. Due to their geographical location, the farms serve as pilots to test the ULTRAREP system in different landscapes. Biagi is farmer at Barone Ricasoli, which is a winery with vineyards in one of the wildest areas of Tuscany.
Biagi: “The presence of ungulates is massive and creates enormous problems for the grape production. At the same time, we want to respect the environment and therefore we find metal fences not a good solution. Before setting up this Operational Group, I did an experiment in my vineyard with non-professional bollards. The devices emit a series of pulses in the ultrasonic range of frequencies. The ungulates find this extremely annoying and this persuades them to flee along “wildlife corridors”. These corridors are pathways leading towards wooded areas or natural parks, thus preventing the animals from moving into the neighbouring vineyards. This experience led to the creation of an Operational Group to further develop this ultrasonic system. ULTRAREP is different compared to other systems such as shelters, fences with mesh or electric or olfactory bollards. These systems have often demonstrated a fairly limited effectiveness, and high installation and management costs.”
Biagi is very positive regarding the opportunities that technology offers in finding solutions for the wildlife problems: “Especially in this case, innovation and technology offer interesting tools that can reduce damage in agriculture. I also believe that the results of this Operational Group can be used for predators too. Eventually we hope to transfer the experience that we gained in this project to other Operational Groups within the National Rural Network and the European Innovation Partnership for Agriculture, so that other farmers in Europe can also benefit from our efforts.”
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