Increasing numbers of farmers across the country have fallen victim to the theft of GPS guidance equipment.
A number of incidents of GPS theft have been reported on a weekly basis in the last month.
Several incidents are reported to have occurred in each of counties Dublin, Meath, Carlow and Cork.
In one incident, a display monitor was also stolen from a self-propelled sprayer, completely disabling the machine.
In these recent thefts, John Deere appears to be the brand most targeted. StarFire 6000 rooftop receivers and GreenStar displays are the most common units being stolen.
Together, these systems can have a combined worth estimated between €13,500 and €16,000 plus VAT, according to one Irish John Deere dealer. This price is higher for systems operating of higher accuracy SF3 signals.
Each theft appears to have been a planned and targeted operation
However, this is not the first spate of such thefts. As with the previous cases, each theft appears to have been a planned and targeted operation.
Other easily stolen items are left behind in such operations, with evidence mounting that these units are being exported.
As previously reported last autumn, 80 GPS units stolen from across Europe were seized from a Lithuanian criminal gang by British police. A separate stolen unit resurfaced for sale on a Mexican classified site.
Agri-care specialist with Templetuohy Farm Machinery (TFM) in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, Alan Prendergast said: “Basically these receivers and displays are in short supply.
"Lead times up to six months are being quoted. In my view, this has led to such equipment being stolen to order, where it then leaves the country to end up anywhere in the world.
We had an American John Deere dealer call us and ask if we had sold units to America
“In one instance, we had an American John Deere dealer call us and ask if we had sold units to America, as we were the dealer the serial number was traced back to,” Alan said.
A number of years ago, John Deere introduced a pin code locking system for its displays and receivers. Alan advises customers to see about having this update installed where possible on compatible models.
“The four systems recently stolen in Bagenalstown were all pin code-protected, which can only be accessed by the farmer and the dealer’s master code. These systems will effectively be useless wherever they end up.”
Finally, Alan advises all farmers and contractors to be extra vigilant when it comes to machines fitted with such technology.
“My advice firstly would be to record serial numbers. Secondly, always park the tractor in a secure area or if possible remove the receiver and display from the machine every evening after use and take it home. If the receiver isn’t in use, remove it from the tractor.
“There is a locking key to lock the receiver to the cab roof, but like most locks it’s not impossible to remove.”
Users of other branded systems should also be vigilant and take similar precautionary measures when parking machinery.
This year especially, given the high price of commodities such as fertiliser, many farmers have invested in more basic manual guidance systems which still hold a considerable value and prove easily stolen.