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3D imaging scanner to strengthen NZ’s biosecurity measures

International arrivals into New Zealand will never be the same again as the most sophisticated x-ray technology available was unveiled at the Auckland Airport by the Biosecurity Minister.

This million-dollar scanner will be able to scrutinise the bags of international travellers for any unwanted pests.

According to a recent report, it features a three-dimensional (3D) imaging (real-time tomography) that will make it easier for quarantine officers to pinpoint risky items, which were difficult to detect in the past.

Examples of these items include dried meat, goods hidden behind laptops, and stink bugs.

New Zealand’s dynamic biosecurity environments call for the constant adjustment of the scrutiny capabilities as well as the strengthening of border security in the country as threats emerge.

Moreover, Biosecurity New Zealand is also developing software with Australian counterparts that will allow the scanner to automatically recognise risky items such as fruit that could harbour fruit fly.

This scanner is a game changer for biosecurity. It is considered as the most sophisticated piece of x-ray technology that the country can put in place to support its officers at the Auckland Airport.

In addition, it provides another useful tool in the current multi-layered biosecurity system, sitting alongside 50 detector dog teams, arrival cards, risk assessment and public awareness campaigns.

The scanner works by checking the bags before the passengers pick them up. The images will then be sent to quarantine ahead of any searches, comparable to how security x-ray screening works at many major international airports.

As reported, the staff will be tasked to identify the objects initially. Once they are able to do so, they can single out images of the object and add them to a database of similar images within the computer.

Eventually, the computer will be able to learn how to recognise the risky objects, before people do. The more images that the computer has, the better it will be able to pinpoint problems.

New Zealand and Australia, which also has a machine in Melbourne, will swap images to build a fuller data set.

These two countries rely on biological systems for wealth creation and so they must protect their systems.

Eventually, the machine will be able to differentiate an apple from a tennis ball. It will then stop wasting time looking for non-biosecurity items.

The goal is to ultimately put this technology in place across the passenger, mail and cargo pathways as traveller numbers and trade increases.

It is important that everyone will do their bit for biosecurity as everyone benefits from a country that is relatively free of unwanted pests and diseases and as all suffer the consequences of an incursion.

Biosecurity New Zealand’s focus is on stopping pests and diseases at the border, before they get to New Zealand.

However, if the pests and diseases are already in the country, then it is their job to eradicate or manage the impacts that resulted.

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