The thefts of GPS guidance equipment from tractors and farm machinery continues to be on the increase in Ireland and across Europe.

The Irish Farmers Journal understands that GPS guidance systems have been stolen in Kildare, Carlow, Tipperary, Limerick, Wexford and Wicklow over the course of the past two weeks alone. These are not all isolated incidents, with four farmers/contractors understood to have been targeted in one night in the Rosslare area at the end of last week.

Thieves are targeting a range of brands, with GPS systems stolen from John Deere, Massey Ferguson, Case IH and New Holland tractors over the past two weeks. It’s not just farmers and contractors who are being targeted – dealers are also falling victim.

George Coyle, a machinery dealer in Athy, Co Kildare, said: “I had a top-spec Massey Ferguson 7726 for sale in the yard. Several people came to view it. As with any dealer’s yard, people would be coming and going looking at different machines. The thieves posed as interested buyers in broad daylight, before cutting the wires and stealing the tractor’s Topcon Autoguide receiver and the tractor’s Datatronic 4 terminal. It was all over in 30 seconds and they were gone before we even knew it. It’s going to cost me the bones of €6,000 to replace it. These thefts are rampant.”

Ongoing thefts

Last November, the Association of Farm & Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) told the Irish Farmers Journal it had learnt from discussions with the Garda stolen vehicle unit that 27 GPS devices have been stolen so far in 2022, mostly from contractor yards.

The devices, mostly GPS domes, were stolen from tractors, while additional machine control devices were also stolen.

George Coyle, a machinery dealer in Athy, Co Kildare had a Topcon Autoguide receiver and the tractor’s Datatronic 4 terminal stolen from his yard in broad daylight.

"The thieves posed as interested buyers in broad daylight, before cutting the wires."

It’s believed these thefts are planned operations, with units being stolen to order.

In recent years, mounting evidence would suggest that these units are being exported. As previously reported by the Irish Farmers Journal, 80 GPS units stolen from across Europe were seized from a Lithuanian criminal gang by British police in 2021. A separate unit stolen from Ireland resurfaced for sale on a Mexican classified site, while other Irish units were traced to America.

Not just in Ireland

FCI has participated on CEETTAR (the European Confederation of Agricultural, Rural and Forestry Contractors) online meetings with John Deere and Case IH on the issue. The high level of theft of John Deere devices has been causing concern and adding huge costs to farmers and contractors across Europe. Difficulties with stolen GPS equipment and significant damage to machines, as well as risk of machine failure and inability to access data networks, was also reported at these meetings.

On our travels to France over the winter, we visited a contractor who had 23 John Deere guidance systems stolen from his yard, over two separate thefts at a cost of €100,000. He told the Irish Farmers Journal the only way he can keep the systems safe is by taking them off every tractor every night, and that he can’t see any other solution at the moment.

Check your insurance

Dealers are strongly advising farmers and contractors who have machines fitted with such technology to be extra vigilant.

Machines should be securely parked and GPS equipment should be removed after use and brought home where possible.

Farmers and contractors need to also double-check their insurance details when it comes to GPS equipment. Depending on the level on specification on the GPS guidance systems, their value could very easily surpass €10,000-€12,000.