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Ongoing project

SITplus: Port Augusta Qfly SIT factory pilot operation (FF18003)

Key research provider: University of Western Sydney, with Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA)

What’s it all about?

A purpose-built sterile Queensland fruit fly facility was established in Port Augusta, South Australia under earlier work in the Hort Frontiers Fruit Fly Fund and broader SITplus initiative. With sterile insect technology (SIT) a promising control method for Queensland fruit fly, the facility is a state-of-the-art factory for the mass-rearing of sterile flies. 

This investment is continuing support for the pilot operation of the facility, allowing delivery of sterile flies to an associated pilot release project. It is also delivering further research to optimise the SIT approach and improve the production of healthy and high-performing sterile fruit flies. The work is being funded through co-investment from a range of partners, funding from the Australian Government, and some contributions from levy industries.

Research progress was made with findings showing high levels of RNA viral infections in laboratory populations of Qfly, including in the flies reared at the SIT Facility. The project team found that these viruses are more common in laboratory than field populations, and transmission experiments have revealed that this is due to their moderate to high levels of horizontal transmission, in combination with some maternal transmission. Research on the establishment of viruses in laboratory populations and their host effects is ongoing more infection trials are being planned.

The factory produced about 25 million flies per week for a period of six months, which were dispatched to rear out centres in Yanco (NSW) and Tatura (VIC), for the experimental release efforts.  Flies were also dispatched to rear out centres in Netley and Renmark (SA) for outbreak response in the Riverland (SA).