Ask the Scientist

Precision Agriculture Bio Detection Services

Yes, because we have combined the powerful scent-detecting ability of canines with advances in biotechnology, satellite and drone imaging, GPS mapping, and data analysis. BDK9 is the first and only provider of this state-of-the-art service.

Dogs are also better at detecting disease because of common sampling issues with traditional PCR methods. In an infected tree, the disease might initially be confined to a small branch. So if one happens to sample the wrong part of the tree, the PCR test would determine the tree was healthy. In other cases, a specimen could easily get contaminated on the way to the lab. In contrast, dogs can “sample” an entire plant with a few sniffs. They either smell the pathogen or they don’t. In-progress studies show that BDK9 dogs are capable of detecting infected plants with 99% accuracy.

There are thousands of crops, and thousands of potential diseases that can affect each one. Our dogs can be trained to detect any disease, but in recent years they have learned to identify common pathogens such as:

  • Citrus Canker
  • Citrus Greening, or HLB
  • Plum Pox Virus
  • Squash Yellow Vein Virus
  • Tomato Chlorotic Spot Virus
  • Grapevine Red Blotch Virus
  • Botrytis (Cannabis bud rot)

People have recognized dogs’ extraordinary sense of smell for centuries, but their talents have only recently been utilized in this way. At BDK9, we’ve been perfecting our proprietary method for training dogs to detect viruses and other pathogens (bacteria, fungi) for over ten years. We received our first grant from the USDA to detect Citrus Canker in 2011. Since then, we have partnered with the USDA and other private and commercial entities to detect many agricultural diseases.

Each disease requires different techniques, depending on the biology of the pathogen and the host. The exact methods are proprietary, but the basic principles are the same: Find a target scent that represents the disease, use self-learning to teach the canines to find it, and validate the canines just like you would for any diagnostic test.

Using satellite and drone imagery that are sensitive to subtle differences in foliage shades, we determine possible locations of disease. Then, guided by a GPS signal on a hand-held device, an experienced handler takes the BDK9 dog to the general area that needs further inspection. The dog is trained to follow the concentration of pathogens to the source. This telltale scent pools around the base of the plant, as well as diffusing up through the soil.

Since we opened for business in 2011, our dogs have examined a range of vegetable and fruit-bearing plants, including watermelon, tomatoes, cassava and citrus crops. They have also been deployed to support our growing roster of vineyard cultivators and cannabis clients around the world. Several clients book our services as a precautionary measure to detect pathogens in fallow fields and early in the planting season to prevent invasive diseases before they can take hold of an entire crop.

Human Host Bio Detection Services

We use a proprietary technology to extract the COVID-19 protein from the virus and render it harmless. This means that it is unable to replicate and threaten humans or animals. Then we train our dogs by treating toys and balls with this deactivated COVID liquid.

The dogs are trained to specifically detect the SARS-COV2 virus which causes COVID-19. We’ve checked to make sure that they do not respond to any seasonal flus, colds, or other related coronaviruses.

No. The other variants of COVID have minor differences, but the majority of the target scent is identical among all COVID strains.

Early evidence indicates that the canines can detect COVID infections days before any other type of assay, including a PCR test, but we haven’t conducted a controlled study yet to evaluate exactly how early the canines can find COVID.

We leave that decision to our clients. Since the dogs have a 98% accuracy rate in detecting COVID-19, that person is highly likely to have the virus. We typically recommend that individuals who our dogs identify as positive for the virus should see their healthcare provider and get follow-up COVID testing.

Yes. Vaccines don’t seem to affect the canine’s ability to detect COVID. So far we know that the canines will not respond positively to individuals vaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines who do not have COVID-19.

It’s possible but highly unlikely. So far only 46 dogs in the entire world have tested positive for COVID, and only two of those dogs were one of the breeds that we use for COVID detection. In every case where dogs became infected with COVID, they lived with COVID-infected people 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When we use canines to detect COVID, they come into contact with potentially infected people for just a few seconds. Since the risk of infection is a function of time of exposure, distance, and concentration of virus, our detector canines will be at very low risk. In addition, it’s important to remember that there are no reports of COVID-infected canines transmitting to other animals or humans.

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