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Completed project

SITplus: Port Augusta Qfly SIT factory pilot operation (FF15000)

Key research provider: Primary Industries and Regions SA
Publication date: Tuesday, May 10, 2022

What was it all about?

From 2016 to 2019, this investment developed and established operational field practices for producing sterile Queensland fruit flies at a production facility in Port Augusta, South Australia. The project involved:

  • Developing facility operating procedures, 
  • Refining breeding and sterilising methods.
  • Optimising fly health through diet and environment.
  • Assessing fly fitness
  • Staff training.

The facility was designed to enable the production and processing of Qfly by incorporating novel technologies developed by the research agencies contributing to the overall SITplus research project. 

Since opening, production has increased to over 20 million flies per week. Depending on demand, the facility can reduce production to minimal levels during winter while needing only 15 days to ramp up to full production. 

This project is a multilateral effort involving collaboration between Macquarie University, South Australia Research Development Institute (SARDI), Agriculture Victoria Research, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries and Plant & Food Research. 

Novel technologies developed and implemented through the program include:

  • The development of a larval gel diet which has enabled larger numbers of flies to be produced in a smaller physical space while improving the consistency and fitness of flies produced
  • Modified adult cages, incorporating horizontally located egg collection tubes to improve the efficiency of the egg collection method and to allow for quicker cleaning and turnaround of cages
  • Changes to the yeast used to feed adults have resulted in a more than 10-fold increase in egg numbers produced, with more than 2.5 litres of eggs able to be collected each week
  • Modified larval collection method to reduce the time and human resources required to harvest multiple cages on any one day and eliminate the need to physically move larval towers to drainage points on the floor when harvesting larvae
  • Installation of a mechanical sieving machine to reduce labour and time required to separate vermiculite from mature pupae
  • Installation of an automated packaging and sealing machine to speed up pupal packaging and irradiation and ensure safer transportation of sterile pupae
  • Installation of larger capacity dye application equipment to reduce the time taken to apply powdered dye to fly pupae before irradiation
  • Installation of a 40-foot freezer container to decontaminate used production cages/towers and waste products to allow for quicker cleaning and disposal of waste products such as uneaten larval diet. This system allows production cages to be cleaned outside the facility building once they are decontaminated and for more cages to be cleaned at any one time.


Funding statement:
SITplus: Port Augusta QFLY SIT factory pilot operation (FF15000) is funded by the Hort Frontiers Fruit Fly Fund, part of the Hort Frontiers strategic partnership initiative developed by Hort Innovation, with co-investment from PIRSA and DEDJTR and contributions from the Australian Government.

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