Minister Poots launches NI’s first tractor driving simulators

CAFRE Level 3 student Erica Stewart, from Magherafelt, who is studying for a Level 3 Advanced Technical Extended Diploma In Agriculture demonstrates one of CAFRE's new tractor driving simulators at Greenmount Campus, Co. Antrim. The simulators will enable students to learn in a safe environment as part of a £100,000 investment, before driving in a real farming/contracting environnment. The simulators will also be used within CAFRE's tractor driving courses for 13-15 year olds. Photo Diarmuid McLaughlin

DAERA Minister Edwin Poots MLA got into the driving seat earlier this week at CAFRE’s Greenmount Campus when he officially launched Northern Ireland’s first ever tractor driving simulators.

The two new simulators represent an investment of £100,000 by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and aim to improve safety both on and off the road, as well as enhance skills and build confidence in a real, working environment.

In addition to trying out one of the simulators, Mr Poots, alongside members of the Farm Safety Partnership, witnessed 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.”

The tractor driving simulators will provide learners, particularly those with limited prior experience, with the opportunity to operate tractors, material handlers and other agricultural machinery in a simulated, controlled and safe environment. 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.

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