Location: Subtropical Horticulture Research
Project Number: 6038-22000-007-001-A
Project Type: Cooperative Agreement
Start Date: Aug 24, 2022
End Date: May 15, 2023
University of Florida (Cooperator) and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS or Agency) desire to enter into this Agreement for the purpose of supporting research to be carried out at ARS and Cooperator facilities. ARS desires the Cooperator to provide goods and services necessary to carry out research of mutual interest within the Subtropical Horticulture Research Station. These services shall be in the form of mentoring, supervision, and credit to the team of engineering students. The overall objective of the project is the development of an automated “smart trap” for tephritid fruit flies capable of detecting, counting, identifying species, and transmitting data to a centralized processing station to facilitate management decisions. In recent years, incursions of Oriental fruit flies have increased in south Florida, threatening production of avocado, mango, and many specialty crops. In August 2015, establishment of a breeding population in Miami-Dade County triggered a multi-million dollar quarantine and eradication program. Automated trapping systems can help provide early warning of invasion by these invasive pests, helping to prevent their spread and reducing the cost of interventions. Through this agreement, the ARS PI will be able to leverage his time and involve students in the building of these systems.
The two-semester Integrated Product & Process Design (IPPD) course at the Cooperator, typically conducted in conjunction with industry partners, breaks the entire course into teams of five to eight fourth-year undergraduate engineering students. Working holistically as part of a team on a design project with real-world applications has been shown to help these engineering students succeed in their careers after school. Typically, the team of students is coached by a faculty mentor, and the industry partner appoints one of their engineers to serve as “liaison engineer”, working closely with the students to complete the project. In the project funded by this agreement, ARS PI will serve this role of liaison engineer. Two faculty at Cooperator have been identified for this proposal. One is the director of the IPPD program. The other is an expert in computer vision and has agreed to supervise the team of engineering students. Toward the goal of developing an automated smart trap for tephritid fruit flies, at least two prototype lines will be worked on: One device will use a camera to periodically take still images of a trap. The system will use convolutional neural networks and other computer vision methods to analyze those images to differentiate species of interest. The second device will use infrared light to measure the wingbeats of flying insects as they enter a modified McPhail trap. The students will be encouraged to start by using an emitting LED, a lens, and a receiving photodiode as in Potamitis et al. (2018), and analyze those wingbeat frequencies to differentiate species of interest as in Potamitis et al. (2017). Initial prototypes in both device lines will be developed during the first semester of this two-semester course, using sterile Mediterranean fruit flies in Gainesville. These initial prototypes will be tested on Caribbean fruit flies and sterile Mediterranean fruit flies in Miami, and potentially on Oriental fruit flies and fertile medflies in Hilo. In the second semester, the team of students will improve upon their designs for cost, accuracy, and field reliability, helping the ARS PI fulfill the Agency mission. The Agency Location is engaged in research addressing the development of automated detection systems for invasive fruit flies. Under the authority of 7 USC 3319a, ARS desires to acquire goods and services from the Cooperator, in the form of these students, to further agricultural research supporting the independent interests of both parties.