IN PICTURES: Robotic tractor on ‘autopilot’ spells out message of support for farmers amid Covid-19 catastrophe

A gigantic message highlighting the plight of the Province’s farmers during the Covid-19 crisis has been etched onto the landscape of Co Antrim.
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The project involved programming an automated tractor to write the words ‘Support our farmers’ in vast letters visible only from the air.

Whilst the tractor was manned, it actually did most of the work whilst on ‘autopilot’, making the 69 separate twists and turns needed to spell out the message.

It took place in a field owned by Mark Crawford in Islandmagee – a peninsula on the east coast, roughly between Whitehead and Larne.

The finished workThe finished work
The finished work

The field was being farmed by JD Townley & Son, and the tractor came from Gethin Evans, sales manager for dealership Johnston Gilpin & Co, who sat in the vehicle to supervise.

Finally the whole thing was filmed by a drone operated by a firm called Grassmen, based in the Ballymena area.

Mr Evans, 40 and from Islandmagee himself, told the News Letter: “It wasn’t designed to be promotional for ourselves of Grassmen. It was purely to get this important message across. Farmers are used to a bit of uncertainty – but this is different.”

However, he went on to voice his faith in NI’s farming fraternity, saying they are “more resilient than most” when it comes to weathering a crisis.

Just getting started...Just getting started...
Just getting started...

Gareth Gault, 40-year-old director of Grassmen, said that the words were etched out by a “power harrow” which was inserted into the soil at specific points as the pre-programmed tractor trundled across the field.

The snow-like appearance of the soil is down to calcium lime, used as a pH moderator.

Sadly the message will no longer be visible to passing aircraft; it was written last week, and the field has since been prepared for barley.

Mr Gault said: “We feel very much for all the front-line workers in the NHS – that’s 100% true. But we just felt agriculture is one of the prime industries, and needs a lot of support too.”

...the computerised message...the computerised message
...the computerised message

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