Laser Scarecrow Prototype

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2018: $14,973.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2019
Grant Recipient: Elliot Farm
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Kenneth Elliot
Elliot Farm

Information Products


  • Vegetables: sweet corn


  • Pest Management: prevention

    Proposal summary:

    Red-winged black birds are significantly damaging sweet corn crops at Elliot Farm and across our region. Despite tremendous efforts to keep these pests at bay, including balloons, bird distress calls, bird repellent, reflecting tape, and netting, in 2016 season, Elliot Farm lost 20% of its sweet corn crop, estimated at $18,000 in lost product.

    While there are three well-known laser bird repellent products currently on the market, ranging from $500 for a hand-held unit to $10,000 for an automated stationary unit, none are suitably designed for small farms. The $10,000 unit is arguably the most effective of the three, but it is not financially attainable. In 2017, Elliot Farm joined a laser scarecrow feasibility study, conducted by University of Rhode Island professor of plant sciences, Dr. Rebecca Brown. We were given a laser scarecrow prototype, which broke 5 times throughout the season due to poor design, but mitigated bird damage to less than 1% while operational.

    Given our experience with the feasibility study, we are uniquely positioned to design a laser scarecrow prototype that is reliable, effective and affordable for small farms that may require multiple units. If funded, we will collaborate with an engineer to design and manufacture 9 laser scarecrows, for under $500 per unit, to test at Elliot Farm with the goal of mitigating bird damage to less than 1% in 2018. Ultimately, we’ll publish our results and a how-to build your own laser manual, increasing the sustainability for small farms in our region and beyond.

    In November 2018, Elliot Farm will compile results and publish a report and/or press release, equipped with a how-to build your own laser manual. We will share these materials widely, on our own website, e-newsletter, social media platforms, as well as with media outlets that include, but are not limited to:

    • Modern Farmer
    • Edible South Shore
    • Wentworth Institute of Technology Communications Department
    • Massachusetts Farm Bureau
    • Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Resources
    • Southeastern Massachusetts Agriculture Partnership
    • Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)


    Project objectives from proposal:

    Our project is to design and manufacture an effective laser scarecrow prototype for under $500 so that this technology is cost effective for small farms, who may require multiple units to protect their crops. Our goal is to manufacture 9 units for use in Elliot Farm’s 2018 season to mitigate bird damage to less than 1%. Ultimately, we’ll publish our results along with how-to build your own laser manual, so other farmers can use this technology, increasing the sustainability for small farms in our region and beyond.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.