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Recently, the manager of a commercial facility reached out to Thorn Pest Solutions for a proposal. The manager told Kevin Thorn he was checking into options — mainly, looking for a lower-priced provider. Thorn hesitated, knowing he couldn’t beat the price this prospect was paying. He doesn’t play that game. But what Thorn didn’t realize until he presented the service plan was that this commercial account was actually looking for value.

“We put together a proposal that included ActiveSense electronic rodent monitoring technology, and our cost was actually higher than what they were paying,” says Thorn, president of the Pleasant Grove, Utah-based pest control firm. “They weren’t going to save money — but they saw the value. It wasn’t the dollars; they just didn’t feel like they were getting much out of the service before.”

After learning about ActiveSense, the decision-maker on the account “didn’t blink,” Thorn says. “They said, ‘Great. We are willing to pay more.’ They were excited about the system.”

Eighty percent of Thorn Pest Solutions’ customer base is commercial, and that includes universities, municipalities, apartment complexes, food-processing plants, restaurants and other hospitality venues. “We are moving into electronic rodent monitoring (ERM) and we are not going to offer anything else,” Thorn says, noting that all new account proposals include the technology. Now, he’s evaluating all existing accounts to determine which ones would most benefit as the company works toward moving completely to ERM.

“It fits our business model perfectly,” Thorn says, noting that the ActiveSense system from Corteva Agriscience can be used in the devices that Thorn Pest Solutions is already placing in facilities. “If we are alerted of activity, we know about it immediately and can deploy a professional — and this rapid response is totally new to the industry.”

Jim Nase, an associate certified entomologist and service manager at Moyer Indoor Outdoor Pest Control in Souderton, Pa., has found great success using Corteva’s ActiveSense in wildlife applications.

In the field, he says he shows customers how the technology works and they are intrigued. And, indoors the ERM sensors help reduce the number of traps and amount of rodenticide required. “Plus, we can monitor areas that are difficult to access, such as electrical areas, pipe chases and above drop ceilings,” Nase adds.

When operations managers across the food industry were asked about dealing with pests, a recent Corteva survey showed that ERM systems like ActiveSense can help them meet pest management needs. Eighty percent of food industry manufacturers indicated in the survey that having access to the latest pest management technology is important. And, 100 percent said that they were “very interested” in ActiveSense.

“ActiveSense elevates a pest management professional from being a trap-checker to a problem solver,” says Ben Schreiber, ActiveSense category lead, Corteva Agriscience. “It creates better working conditions for employees, and it allows professionals to focus on the root cause of pest problems.”

BETTER FOR BUSINESS. Corteva Agriscience is investing in pest control technology and built its ERM “from the ground up,” Schreiber explains, “as opposed to taking an existing type of sensor that maybe wasn’t specific to the pest control industry.”

“We developed ActiveSense to address the needs of the pest management industry,” he says.

Specifically, Schreiber is speaking of the AIR1 sensor’s multiple modes of action, which allows professionals the flexibility to place the sensors in any type of trap. The sensors have two functions: active infrared that emits a beam and measures the reflection of a pest in the trap; and an accelerometer that detects movement.

Ben Schreiber, ActiveSense category lead

“This is a rock-solid sensor that can be used in any situation — PMPs really have the flexibility to make the system work for them,” Schreiber says.

For Nase, ActiveSense sensors help him respond immediately when a wildlife trap is activated. Also, because he receives notifications in real time, he knows what type of animal he will be managing before he arrives on-site. “If I get an alert at 1 a.m., it means I collected a skunk, raccoon or possum — a nocturnal animal,” he says, noting that he can arrive prepared.

“A major advantage of the system for wildlife traps is that I can get the animal out quickly, so it is not in the public eye,” Nase says. “Also, I can respond quickly so an animal is not left in the heat or elements for too long,” so there is a humane component as well.

Nase is also experimenting with using AIR1 sensors in “runway devices” so he can determine whether there is pest pressure in a space before setting traps. “We are looking for rodent movement,” he says of indoor accounts. “If you can take a tube that a rodent would go through and place a sensor inside, you can find out if there is rodent activity without baiting and trapping,” he says.

In a food-processing facility, solving the issue quickly is critical because food safety and public health is on the line. “ActiveSense provides you with real-time data to get to the root of the problem and prevent a costly problem,” Schreiber says.

Time savings is another benefit. When ERM sensors are placed in traps, PMPs are more productive during service calls, adds Eric Melass of Killum Pest Control in Lake Jackson, Texas. “If there are multiple traps, technicians know exactly which ones to check so they save time without guesswork,” he says. “They can spend their time doing work that is more valuable to the customer.”

Not to mention, customers appreciate that service calls are productive. “They know we are coming because we are coming to get something,” Melass says of why his residential customers like the technology.

Schreiber has seen the value of ActiveSense play out in real time on a residential site. At one account, during a two-week period, the account was able to cut costs by checking traps remotely. “With ActiveSense, I’m checking traps eight times per second, 24 hours a day,” he says. “I provide better service, peace of mind, and I can send customers an email every day saying there’s no trap activity.”

As Nase noted, wildlife traps have to be checked and cleared frequently — usually within 24 hours of a catch. “Active infrared checks traps all the time,” Schreiber says, noting that more states are approving electronic systems as “checking.”

Beyond pest detection, ERM systems like ActiveSense could help the industry recruit talent. “This type of technology reinvigorates our professionals and will attract people to the industry,” he says. “It’s a step in the right direction to help our professionals see that we are scientists — we are entomologists. We are observational biologists. This is what we spend our time doing; we are not trap-checkers. This is an industry of problem solving.”

Simply put, Thorn says, “The technology brings out the fun in our work.”

The pest management industry has been talking about problem solving and inspection for a long time, Thorn continues. However, actually executing this mindset hasn’t been easy. “In the case of some of these large commercial accounts, a lot of us have had a hard time figuring that out,” he says.

Why? Logistics. Large accounts with hundreds of traps and pressure to prevent infestations have demanded a boots-on-the-ground approach. Traps need to be set and checked — all of the time. “Seventy percent of your time is spent checking traps,” Thorn said.

ERM opens the door for better monitoring and fewer labor-intensive, costly service visits. “We can spend more time inspecting and doing what we’ve been talking about for the last 10 years,” he says. “It’s a no-brainer.”

Corteva’s ActiveSense sensors can be used with any rodent trap or monitor.

AN EASY SELL. You can’t put a price tag on peace of mind. “Customers may value that at three times the cost of a service,” Melass reminds his team. For instance, several clients called the company because they suspected a rodent problem. “They heard scratching in the walls — but we weren’t seeing the signs,” Melass says. “They asked, ‘What can you do?’ and I said, ‘We can put this technology in the attic and throughout the house. If we catch something, the system will alert us — and if not, you’ll have peace of mind that there is no problem.’”

Melass says the “wow factor” of this technology is appealing to customers. So far, ActiveSense is selling itself, he said. “Customers understand that they are paying for a service they get results for, where before some felt they were paying us to check traps and we might not catch anything,” he says.

Technicians are talking to customers about ActiveSense, which is how Killum Pest Control sells the service. “They bring up the options and share the new technology and its benefits,” Melass says. “When they ask, ‘Which do you prefer?’ between trap-checking or ActiveSense, 80 to 90 percent are saying the technology sounds great.”

Thorn Pest Solutions is designing its pest control programs with ERM technology in mind. “If there are more than 15 catches in a month, the math works,” Thorn says of the cost to customers. “For the time savings, it is not expensive.”

Thorn is assembling marketing materials and the company is creating educational videos for clients. “Our clients want it — they need it, and our professionals love how it saves time and makes their job better,” Thorn says.

And, there’s plenty of support from Corteva to assist pest management professionals who adopt the system. “PMPs can implement and get comfortable with ActiveSense and expand it to different spaces,” Schreiber says of the business opportunity. “They can be creative with it and build the proper solution for every client they serve.”

The author is a frequent contributor to PCT magazine.