Wellington researcher Dr Michael Jackson is a step closer to seeing his innovative, sustained-release rat lure products on the global pest control market, with assistance from the KiwiNet Emerging Innovator Programme.
Michael received the $25,000 award to aid the commercialisation of his new lures which emit chemical compounds that he and his colleagues identified are attractive to rats, one of the world's most damaging pest mammals.
Michael, from the School of Biological Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington, is leading a research project team to transform a number of chemical compounds they have identified as attractive to rats into viable, commercially available products.
The compounds are being put into easy-to-use pest control products that emit them in a controlled and sustained manner over time, offering users a time and cost-saving replacement for traditional, perishable lures.
Michael says wild rodents are a significant global pest problem.
"We are developing rat lure products that deliver a sustained release of attractive chemical compounds over an extended time period.
"The problem with traditional rat lures, and lures for other pest mammals, is that they are perishable foods like peanut butter that mould or get eaten by non-target animals.
"This means they're only effective for a few days before they need to be replenished, which is costly and time consuming."
Viclink, Victoria's commercialisation arm, has worked closely with Michael and his team to develop a strategy to commercialise this novel approach to pest control.
With funding and additional commercialisation assistance from KiwiNet through the KiwiNet Emerging Innovator Programme, Michael has been able to assess channel-to-market options, secured interest from key local and international industry players, and engaged with a commercial partner to undertake a range of commercial activities.
"I've been able to talk to, and collaborate with, potential partners across the globe who have extensive experience in developing and selling pest control products. I wouldn't have been able to do this without KiwiNet's support."
"Dr Jackson's new long-life lures represent a fantastic export opportunity for New Zealand," says Dr James Hutchinson, CEO of KiwiNet. "There is keen interest in the global pest control market for new technologies that are more effective than traditional kill-trapping methods using food-based products."
"We're delighted to have helped the commercialisation of this important technology which will have applications in a range of settings including conservation, agriculture, food storage and processing, and human and animal health."
KiwiNet has also awarded a further $25,000 PreSeed Accelerator Funding for the project.
Michael started his research into semiochemical (signalling) compounds in 2014 for his PhD thesis.
Along with colleagues Associate Professor Wayne Linklater and Dr Rob Keyzers from Victoria's Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology, they were awarded $360,000 last year from the Department of Conservation to help develop their lures through the Predator Free 2050 Tools to Market fund, which makes tools needed to achieve New Zealand's Predator Free 2050 goal more available.It enabled the team to begin transforming their initial research into viable products.
Viclink's early engagement with Michael's team, DOC and KiwiNet has ensured research and development of the lures has progressed hand-in-hand with assessment of market need , and patent applications filed to protect the intellectual property.
"Viclink has invested significantly in this project and we've had fantastic support from DOC and KiwiNet to ensure this early stage technology can be incorporated into a variety of easy to use product options that make a real impact in society," says Dr Janice Cheng from Viclink, who works alongside Michael.
"The global pest market is growing fast and expected to reach US$28 billion in 2026. We're really excited about the commercial interest from potential partners around the world already."
The KiwiNet Emerging Innovator Programme is open to early career researchers based at universities and Crown Research Institutes in New Zealand.
Recipients receive expert legal advice from KiwiNet corporate partner MinterEllisonRuddWatts and IP advice from Baldwins.
The Norman Barry Foundation, which owns the Quality Hotel Parnell Limited, provided a donation of $25,000 for Michael's work.
"It's been wonderful to assist Michael to undertake a variety of commercialisation activities that will see his research turn into valuable pest control product products on the world stage," says John Smith, chairman of the Norman Barry Foundation.