CAFRE invests £100,000 in NI’s first tractor simulators

A new piece of kit at Greenmount College could make young safer tractor drivers – before they even set foot in a cab.

The two new simulators, which cost the department £100,000 to buy, aim to improve safety both on and off the road, as well as enhance skills and build confidence in a real, working environment.

The simulators include three types of software so young students can experience driving a telehandler, tractor or combine.

The simulator includes several courses where the user has to navigate obstacles, helping them learn about how the vehicles move and consider where their blind spots are.

CAFRE Level 3 student Erica Stewart, from Magherafelt. Image source: Diarmuid McLaughlin, DAERA

Learners can receive reports on their driving techniques and when the two simulators are used in tandem, can practice many of the machinery operations on farms.

The college plans on using the simulators to help learners as young as 12 years old. with the opportunity to drive in a controlled and safe environment.

The simulators consist of three LED screens at the front and one to the back to give an immersive experience.

Image source: Diarmuid McLaughlin, DAERA
L-R: Students Chesney Ferguson, Erica Stewart, Minister Poots MLA, Katie Hepburn, Scott Starkey, Matthew Jenkins and Christopher Robinson. Image source: Diarmuid McLaughlin, DAERA

Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Minister Edwin Poots MLA got into the driving seat on Thursday (February 13) at CAFRE’s Greenmount Campus when he officially launched the simulators, which are the first in Northern Ireland.

Aside from taking them for a spin, Mr. Poots, alongside members of the Farm Safety Partnership, observed how CAFRE students handled various driving situations and heard their positive views on the high-tech equipment.

Minister Poots said: “This is an excellent investment and a first for a college in Northern Ireland. Improving safety on our farms is paramount and the training of tractor and machinery operatives is vitally important.

It is amazing how realistic these driving simulators are and I am positive that even experienced operatives will be able to test their existing skills and learn new techniques.

“The students I met this morning demonstrated a high level of ability in manoeuvring through various situations and I’ve no doubt this high-tech equipment will greatly enhance the excellent training already provided by CAFRE.”