Internet of things


IoT innovation to protect young trees from Pine Weevils

Monday, 24 October 2022

Pine Weevils have long presented a challenge to the forestry industry as a result of their attacks on young trees, costing £5million every year. Various solutions have been sought, however Internet of Things [IoT] technology might be able to play its part in helping to save the trees,  

Researchers are developing an IoT enabled remote monitoring system that could tackle this persistent risk. 

In a new management approach, weevil attractants are placed in unique traps, known as Hylopods, which are spread across clearfell forest sites to attract and catch the insects. A camera, using machine vision and artificial intelligence techniques, counts the insects and provides an alert through an IoT network if the area is deemed to be at considerable risk. Foresters can then make better informed, more evidence-based decisions on how to manage their sites. 

With a preference for feeding on the bark of saplings, pine weevils are a particular problem for the first five years of a tree’s life. They have proven especially destructive to seedlings of pine and spruce – tree species commonly grown for the UK’s softwood timber market. 

“Pine weevils are a big problem for Scotland’s commercial forests, but the options for managing them have been thin on the ground and heavily chemical pesticide dependent. The system we have built will give land managers the ability to remotely monitor their forests and make more evidence-based decisions, rather than relying on collecting fresh wood piles and regularly manually counting the number of insects they find there.” 

David Loughlin

Director at pest management experts, Sentomol

Sentomol has developed the remote monitoring system with imaging and IoT engineering experts at CENSIS, in what is the innovation centre’s 300th project since it was created during 2013.  

The monitoring system currently transmits data over a cellular network. This will be expanded to incorporate other communication networks suitable for use in remote areas including LoRaWAN, a type of IoT network, and potentially satellite. It has been designed specifically to count the number of pine weevils and link to a decision support system to determine whether they represent a threat to trees, replacing manual counts  which are time-intensive and can be open to interpretation. 

Stephen Milne, director of strategic projects at CENSIS, said: “The system we have developed with Sentomol combines a range of different technologies in an exciting way. It is bringing together edge-based computing with machine vision and IoT to provide a low-cost remote monitoring capability that can help forestry professionals make more informed decisions. Most importantly, it is solving an important real-world problem that affects not only Scotland – where the Scottish Government has set ambitious targets for re-foresting land and growing forestry’s importance to the economy – but also the wider UK and Europe. It is an apt project to mark our 300th collaboration, given the significant impact it could have on a nationally important industry.” 

Read more: Pine weevil camera trap system - CENSIS