Photonic Fence is a viable tool to control citrus disease, study concludes

In a recently published study, Intellectual Ventures researchers showed that the Photonic Fence can effectively track and shoot down the Asian citrus psyllid, a vector for citrus greening disease. The disease has devastated citrus production in Florida and around the world. 

A study published today in Optics Express confirmed that the Photonic Fence –  a system of cameras and lasers mounted on fence posts, developed at Intellectual Ventures Laboratories for vector control – is able to track and shoot down the infamous bug that has devastated orange production in Florida and around the world in recent years. The 4-millimeter-long Asian citrus psyllid is a vector for “citrus greening”, a plant disease that has hampered orange production, reduced supply and contributed to a significant increase in orange juice prices in recent years.  

Citrus growers have relied on chemical insecticides to control the pest. But in recent years the bugs have begun to fight back by developing resistance to the powerful chemicals. Pesticides have also been shown to have negative health effects on humans and wildlife, making them fall further out of favor.

Our study, conducted in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), shows that the Photonic Fence is capable of identifying and tracking the Asian citrus psyllids in flight, and also confirmed lethality upon laser exposure, thus bringing us a step closer to providing an excellent alternative to pesticides in the fight against this devastating disease. 

The Photonic Fence works in three phases:

  • First: The sensor distinguishes the psyllids from other insects by measuring various aspects of the target’s behavior, including its size and wing beat frequency (the measure of how fast the insect is flapping its wings).
  • Second: A safety interlock subsystem confirms there are no other organisms nearby which could be harmed by the lethal laser.
  • Third: The laser shoots a lethal dose that disables the psyllid.

The entire process takes less than 100 milliseconds.

The study is part of a larger project supported by our Global Good Fund to assess the Photonic Fence’s efficacy on a number of disease-carrying mosquitoes and agricultural pests. Because the fund is focused on using technology to improve the lives of people in the developing world, our original goal in creating the photonic fence was to deploy the system in the developing world to control diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, such as malaria, dengue and Zika virus. In order to make the technology economically viable for the developing world, however, we are looking at introducing the system first in developed world applications in the agriculture and hospitality markets, where we can bring the product more quickly to scale. More information on the Photonic Fence can be found by visiting us at or by contacting us at