The ability to remotely monitor a wide variety of food safety-related processes is not new. Food companies can remotely monitor everything from door closures to food storage temperatures using this technology. There have even been several attempts in recent years to use similar technology for pest management purposes. Current remote monitoring systems primarily focus on rodent monitoring with the hopes of expanding to a variety of non-rodent monitoring devices in the future. Eventually, the industry envisions to be able to utilize these remote monitoring systems for other types of pests, including adaptations for insect light traps and pheromone traps. These developments will allow pest management professionals (PMPs) to actively control food facilities 24/7 in order to keep all sites free of a variety of pests.
While many food processors are excited for the opportunity to incorporate remote monitoring systems into their facilities, understanding these systems, along with their advantages and disadvantages, is crucial.
How Do They Work?
Remote monitors provide 24/7 monitoring coverage of rodent control devices. At a minimum, remote monitoring systems will have a sensor to detect the pest, as well as a method of sending a message to the PMP when a rodent is detected. Although features will vary by manufacturer, all systems will use three electronic devices: a sensor, a hub, and a mobile device. The sensor is placed in or on the rodent device, like a trap or station. The sensor communicates with an onsite hub, which communicates with an off-site data center. In turn, the hub is responsible for communicating the sensor’s messages to the PMP via a text or email on a mobile device.
The types of sensors used in pest management programs vary depending on the manufacturer. Sensors currently on the market measure either motion, infrared, or a combination of both. It is important to note that units incorporating motion sensors can be subject to more false positive alerts, especially in high-traffic areas. For this reason, it is vital to consider the impact of human disturbance and vibrations when determining proper placement of remote monitoring systems with motion detectors.
The amount of back-end support offered with remote monitoring systems varies depending on the manufacturer. For example, some manufacturers offer mapping software, which records placements alongside tracking and trending capabilities. Others offer more basic software, which includes only sensor alerting support.
Sites Most Conducive to Remote Monitoring
Some of the earliest adopters of remote monitoring technology are those performing wildlife removal using live traps. To ensure trapped animals are treated humanely, PMPs are required to visit the sites daily. This process can be labor intensive and costly with no guarantee of a capture. This is where remote monitoring systems are the most beneficial—since some systems utilize motion to signal activity, areas with less human disturbance and vibrations tend to be better locations for these types of sensors. PMPs should search for areas less subject to disturbance, as they are often shadowy, protected areas that are more likely to be visited by pests. It is important to avoid areas with the potential for movement-related issues as this can prompt false positive reports due to station or trap movement, and can offset the value of the systems. These false positives can also cause PMPs to monitor an area more frequently, causing an increase in labor costs.
Food processing plants, pharmaceutical plants, and other sensitive facilities are excellent candidates for remote monitoring systems because they can expedite the analysis of a rodent’s presence. These types of sites can benefit from niche uses, like monitoring the upper ledges of a processing plant that require assessing for roof rats caused by exterior pressures.