In national farm safety week it is pertinent to tell the story of how the Irish Farmers Journal safety tractor came about. During a conversation among journalists in the second half of 2017, the question was asked if we could make and design a tractor and use it as a promotional tool. This would be of interest to our younger readers and they can be big drivers of adult’s decisions.

The discussion gained momentum and we began to ask if the concept could be used to help teach our youth about danger and safety. Our first port of call was our friends in IT Tralee to ask if the idea had merit – they were instantly supportive of the concept. Their first question was “what do you want?” and all we knew at that stage was that it had to be battery powered, have a roll bar, suit and fit smaller children and be somewhat bigger than a standard pedal tractor.

Discussions with IT Tralee

We began by visiting Fergal O’Sullivan and Chris O’Donoghue in the engineering department of IT Tralee. They had a definite interest in the idea and early discussions agreed that this would have to be a bespoke design and build from the ground up.

A set of specifications was drawn up to guide the design and manufacture of the tractor. From this point, safety began to play a central role. Too many children have been lost on farms because they wanted to be like and be with their dads, only to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. So the tractor had to be as good as their dads, have lots of bells and whistles and to use technology to help keep them safe. Build quality and reliability were also serious considerations.

The ‘toy’ needed to be something that children would want to be involved with and so it needed to be solid, look well and be functional with real pneumatic tyres.

Class projects

The specs were given as a project to second year students of mechanical and agricultural engineering. These formed into groups to design a model prototype tractor based on the specs provided. These were then judged and the team of Eddie Lane, Donal Hand, Jack Cotter, Chris Joughin from Zimbabwe and Mong Pengs from Malaysia was selected to build the tractor. A second team was also put together by staff to develop a second bespoke tractor.

The team managed to incorporate virtually all of the desired specs, and more, into our safety tractor. Their educational toy incorporated a host of features to keep children safe and to help teach safety at an influential age. The tractor was sized for ages eight to 13 years and the chassis was extendable to fit different-sized children.

The tractor was completed in December 2018 and was shown on the Irish Farmers Journal stand at the Machinery Show in Punchestown in February.

It is now hoped that it will be used at school level to help teach young children about safety while having fun. Great credit is due to these innovative students and you can read more about them in a special feature in Country Living this week. We will also carry more about the tractor''s specifics in next week’s Irish Farmers Journal.