MULVANE, Kansas — It’s an ongoing problem, copper thieves targeting area farms, cashing in on the scrap metal prices and leaving a lot of damage behind. Now farmers are hoping to safeguard themselves from these thefts with some new technology.
Many farmers across the area are suffering from thieves trying to steal copper wiring off of irrigation pivots. However they are now fighting back using a small box and their cell phones.
Ian Parker of Parker Farms in Mulvane says his irrigation pivots have been hit by copper thieves three times in the past three years.
“We wouldn’t know about it until we’d either be in the field or at the beginning of season when we would try to go turn the machines on,” said Parker.
It’s a costly fix, so Parker looked into a new technology last year developed by Net Irrigates in Indianapolis to combat the problem.
“We’ve added a device to each of our pivots called WireRat and that will notify us as soon as the copper has been cut,” said Parker.
WireRat involves a small box being installed on each of the pivots. The boxes are synced through a mobile app on your phone that gives you updates on the status of each unit that you have and lets you know when something isn’t right.
The investment has already paid off for Parker.
Parker showed KSN the voice call and text message he received in November when there was a possible theft occurring on his property.
It’s a system that law enforcement is also backing, seeing it as an effective tool to catch the thieves red-handed.
“Those technologies that farmers are beginning to deploy on the irrigation pivots are allowing us, it’s like an alarm, it gives us immediate notification right then and there,” said Lt. Dave Mattingly, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office.
The WireRat app is free to download, the device to install on the actual pivots costs about $1,600 but farmers like Parker say it’s a wise investment, considering the damage done by copper thefts can range from five to six thousand dollars.