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Pest Control Research Delivers New Export Earnings

Pest Control Research Delivers New Export Earnings

Auckland wild animal pest control specialist Connovation Ltd is developing new, fast acting and humane products to control wild dogs and pigs in Australia, using investment of just over $200,000 from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

At the heart of the R&D programme, which has received investment through the Foundation’s Technology for Business Growth (TBG scheme) is the development of a targeted, PAPP-based bait (Para-aminopropiophenone) which is rapidly absorbed into the body and effective in killing larger animals such as wild dogs.

Trials of the bait have focused on its use with wild, introduced foxes in Australia, which attack and kill farmers’ stock. Early trials of the product were carried out in Tibet where wild dogs, which frequently carry hydatids, are a problem in many Buddhist monasteries.

“They were looking for a humane way to control the dogs which our product offers,” says Connovation chief executive Duncan MacMorran.

He says the product is unique and is likely to attract a lot of interest internationally once it has been registered for use in Australia, a milestone likely to be reached within the next 12 months. “A lot of companies around the world have tried unsuccessfully to develop PAPP-based toxins, but no one else has yet been able to make it work. We’ve already had interest from the United Kingdom and expect a lot more once the product is available.”

As well as being on target to deliver new weapons to deal with Australia’s wild dog and feral pig problem, the project has connected Connovation with Tasmanian state government authorities looking for more humane alternatives to 1080 to control possums and wallabies. Although possums are a protected species in much of Australia, some control is permitted in Tasmania in areas where possums are damaging crops.

As a result, Connovation has been awarded $300,000 of an A$1.4 million research grant from the Tasmanian Government and is hopeful its core Feratox® product – encapsulated cyanide pellets – will be selected to control the pests. Encapsulation prevents animals from detecting the odour or taste of the cyanide. The pellets do not leave any cyanide residues in the environment or in the dead possums, which can be safely eaten by scavengers or left to decompose.

Mr MacMorran says Connovation is also carrying out further work on another of its core products – Skunk Shot – to determine its potential use in Tasmania. Skunk Shot is a synthetic and non toxic version of the skunk smell which was developed by scientists at Victoria University of Wellington as a repellant for cats and dogs in the lawn or garden. Mr MacMorran says further research is designed to adapt the product for use as a repellant against possums.

“We are getting an extraordinary level of contacts and linkages and new earnings as a result of the Foundation help and it’s not even finished. The research and development is really positioning the company well to expand in a lot of different directions,” says Mr MacMorran.

Robin Hyde, an investment performance manager with the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, says Connovation’s success illustrates that the value of doing research and development frequently extends far beyond the potential revenue from the final, developed products.

“Connovation has encountered a wealth of spin-off benefits, including new, first class academic linkages, skills in attaining regulatory approval, as well as new customer and partner channels,” says Mr Hyde.

Connovation’s Director of Research is Dr Charles Eason, an internationally renowned toxicologist who formerly worked at Landcare Research.

Mr MacMorran says a key to Connovation’s success is the quality of its science and its ability to turn research into products.

“We take innovative approaches but are product driven at the same time. We don’t spend years and years doing research and development for its own sake but are focused on quickly turning what we discover into fully tested and registered products.”

Feratox® remains Connovation’s core product and is the most popular form of ground bait for possums in New Zealand.

The company has a staff of 15 based at its Auckland premises with R&D carried out both there and in Christchurch.

ENDS

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