Waikato students give kiwi smart protection

Waikato students give kiwi smart protection

Three University of Waikato computer science students have designed a system that not only kills the pests that threaten kiwi, but also collects data for more proactive conservation.

The 22-year-olds, Jourdan Templeton, Nathan Holland and Stephen Quayle, built the system using traps that kill possums, rats and stoats using a peanut-based bait and CO2 gas-powered pneumatic bolt fires that kill the pests instantly.

Each trap is connected to a transmitter that records data each time it's triggered, relaying the information to a base unit on a server running Microsoft Azure.

“We collect a wide range of data every time a trap is activated, which can provide information about the environment and the impact of pests in the area," says Templeton.

The system is called Ohiti, the Maori word for watchful. "We wanted to provide a portal which would enable conservationists to be more proactive in protecting native species,” says Templeton. "We wanted to make it easy to maintain the traps without sending people on a hike to check each one."

Ohiti was trialled at Hamilton Gardens for a month, using three traps about 50 metres apart.

To develop the prototype, the trio used Microsoft's .Net Gadgeteer platform.

The team says it was difficult to create waterproof housing to protect the unit's electronics. “At the moment the transmitter technology works best in parks or bushland near built-up areas as it is operating on a 2.4 gigahertz frequency. As the technology evolves, it will be able to be used in a broader range of environments,” says Quayle.

The portal was developed using Visual Studio and the source code and web app were hosted on Azure.

Microsoft also gave the team a subscription to its developer network for software licenses, through the BizSpark startup programme.

“Our hope is that people will catch the vision of how technology can rapidly aid efforts to conserve New Zealand’s natural environment," Templeton says.