Two men have been caught on camera stealing tractor GPS equipment from sprayers on a farm in Lincolnshire.
The thieves, both dressed in dark clothes, masks and gloves, can be seen walking across a locked farmyard belonging to fresh vegetable growers and suppliers Emmett UK, in Gedney Dyke, near Holbeach.
Be vigilant, Gps equipment stolen from 2 sprayers, pic.twitter.com/2IMl3GzxcQ
— Richard stevenson (@Richards6res) September 19, 2020
They approach a Bateman sprayer and one man enters the vehicle to remove the equipment while the second man, who has dark hair, crouches down at the side to keep watch.
Richard Stevenson, head of engineering at Emmett UK, said the men removed two Ag Leader screens from inside the cabs of two Bateman sprayers as well as both domes from their roofs during the raid, shortly before 1am on Thursday (17 September). In total, they stole about £20,000 worth of equipment.
“We lost a day and a half of spraying at a critical time,” he told Farmers Weekly. “It’s not just the cost, it’s the inconvenience too.
“Our spinach needs spraying every three days, especially with the increased disease risk due to the warm September weather.
“We have been out spraying all weekend, trying to catch up, but we are still behind. It’s very frustrating.”
Officers from Lincolnshire Police have visited the farmyard and viewed the CCTV footage. They have told Mr Stevenson the raid was carried out by organised criminals who knew what they were looking for – but it was unlikely they would be caught as they were disguised.
“We have ramped up security and will lock away the sprayers in sheds overnight,” added Mr Stevenson.
“If sprayers are left out on site, we have asked our men to remove the GPS equipment from now on. We are also looking into buying a new alarm system with beams for the farmyard.”
Emmett UK grows and supplies vegetables including spinach, leeks, kale and cavolo nero for Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsburys and other leading retailers.
Lincolnshire Police said 13 thefts of farm machinery GPS devices were reported to the force between 17-19 September, with thousands of pounds worth of equipment being taken. The thefts were carried out in the surrounding areas of Boston and Spalding.
Trimble Nav-500 and 750 series nav systems, Trimble satellite receivers, Topcon and IntelliView computer systems were all taken during the night, with most thefts occurring in rural areas.
Lincolnshire Police is urging farmers to remove GPS devices from their machinery when not in use – unless the kit is integrated and cannot be taken out.
‘Deeply worrying’ trend
Det Sgt Walker said: “This trend is deeply worrying for farmers who are investing in high-tech equipment to make their farms more efficient and reduce pollution.
“In an attempt to stop thieves targeting GPS kits, some manufacturers now provide personal identification numbers (PINs) to prevent the equipment being used by others.
“Most GPS kits in use on farms today are fitted to tractors as an easily removable accessory. To prevent thefts, farmers should remove the kit when it’s not in use and store it under lock and key.”
Police have urged farmers to report any suspicious activity by calling 101, or 999 to report a crime in progress.
Six tips to prevent theft of tractor GPS systems
1. Remove GPS guidance receivers, aerials and antenna globes from tractors when not in use and keep them in a secure locked place whenever possible
2. Consider fitting security tethers or brackets to stop units being removed
3. Mark your postcode on GPS units – either with a UV pen, engraving tool or forensic marking system
4. Store machinery in locked buildings where possible
5. Where locking machines away isn’t an option, consider fitting mains or battery-operated alarms to cover the perimeter of areas where machines are stored
6. Record machinery serial numbers and photograph kit to help police identify stolen items and increase the chances of them being recovered