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Are dogs the future of pest detection?

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Large Canadian greenhouse grower NatureFresh™ Farms has adopted a novel approach to pest management: using a Belgian Shepherd dog named Chili to identify the first signs of infestation.

The move came following an outbreak of Pepper Weevil (Anthonomus eugenii) in the autumn of 2016. Due to the nature of the pest, it cannot be spotted by humans and, once an outbreak is established, no available biological control methods are capable of controlling the pest.

Cam Lyons, Research and Development and IPM Technician comments, “Dogs are a very intelligent animal. Many worker dogs are trained to recognize and discover scents associated with drugs or bombs, so it seemed possible to train a dog to recognize pepper weevil.”

After research, the company adopted 15-month old Chili who underwent 8 weeks of training before being certified by The American Working Dog Association. This certification allows Chili to work in the farm without any food safety concerns. When Chili detects the scent of Pepper Weevil she will sit and stare at the location of the pest.

Peter Quiring, NatureFresh™ Farms Owner and CEO, added, “In order to continue to grow it is essential to develop new strategies and look beyond conventional methods. We encourage our team to think outside the box and test any ideas they may have; no idea is considered too crazy.”

Photo Caption: Cam Lyons, IPM scout and dog handler Tina Heide, and Chili.

Photo Credit: NatureFresh Farms

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