Isca Technologies Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant For Ground Breaking Research In Global Health And Development

RIVERSIDE, CA – ISCA TECHNOLOGIES announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Agenor Mafra-Neto, Ph.D will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled: Ultra Cheap Laser Bug Sensors to Manage Agricultural Pests.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to put my lifelong interest in insects to good; I really believe that monitoring insects in real-time will allow for earlier, very targeted pest control that will ultimately improve food yields and save lives in impoverished rural areas. We are very grateful to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for helping us to get this project off the ground,” Dr. Mafra-Neto says.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide who are taking innovative approaches to some of the world’s toughest and persistent global health and development challenges. GCE invests in the early stages of bold ideas that have real potential to solve the problems people in the developing world face every day. Dr. Mafra-Neto’s project is one of over 80 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Investments in innovative global health research are already paying off,” said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We continue to be impressed by the novelty and innovative spirit of Grand Challenges Explorations projects and are enthusiastic about this exciting research. These investments hold real potential to yield new solutions to improve the health of millions of people in the developing world, and ensure that everyone has the chance to live a healthy productive life.”

To receive funding, Dr. Mafra-Neto and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a creative idea in one of five critical global health and development topic areas that included agriculture development, immunization and communications. Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges Explorations Round 10 , will be accepted through November 7, 2012.

A staggering one-sixth of the world’s total population, over a billion people, is malnourished. At least six million children die of hunger every year. One of the simplest answers to solving this problem is to efficiently grow and store more food at the local level where it is needed. Unfortunately, in impoverished areas such as the sub-Saharan region and the Desert Caatinga in the Northeastern Brazil, this can be extremely difficult, due in part to a variety of ravaging insect pests. The use of conventional pesticides through blanket spraying is undesirable for many reasons including the financial burden these chemical sprays would pose to cash-strapped farmers. However, if pests are detected in the early stages of the infestation cycle, then highly localized spot treatments with insecticide (with a hand pump) can effectively control the pest, while avoiding costly blanket sprays and crop losses.

Dr. Mafra-Neto, working with machine learning expert, Dr. Eamonn Keogh of the University of California Riverside, and Leandro Jost Mafra of ISCA Tecnologias Brazil, propose to build inexpensive sensors to count and classify insect pests in the field, to produce real-time information that can be used by farmers to nip pest populations in the bud. In turn, this will allow for drastically increased food yields at the local level, and a reduction in hunger related health issues. These low-powered sensors will be mass-produced with a sale price of less than $5 per sensor, thus allowing them to be used in the developing world.

About Grand Challenges Explorations
Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 700 people in 45 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants. The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization. The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required. Initial grants of US$100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.

About ISCA Technologies
The mission of ISCA Technologies is to protect the world from damaging insects and pathogens by developing solutions that are economical, effective and ecologically friendly. One of the ways ISCA Technologies achieves this mission is by developing insect pheromone and attractant-based pest management solutions to monitor and to control insect pests and vectors of diseases. Monitoring lures and devices, like the proposed smart traps, help growers to define the presence, density and location of pest populations to better control them in the field. Control formulations, such as ISCA’s SPLAT mating disruption and attract & kill products offer an effective and viable alternative to the frequent misuse and overuse of conventional pesticides: with SPLAT products only the target pest is affected. Transitioning to the use of these products from conventional pesticide-based crop management has the potential to revolutionize current agricultural practices. This change will contribute to a safer food supply and a more sustainable future.

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