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Published March 10, 2014, 09:47 AM

Thieves target irrigation systems

Pivot irrigation systems are used only part of the year in the Upper Midwest, but they can be a year-round target for copper thieves.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Pivot irrigation systems are used only part of the year in the Upper Midwest, but they can be a year-round target for copper thieves.

Net Irrigate, a Bloomington, Ind., company has come up with a device to combat the problem. WireRat notifies farmers and law enforcement immediately when theft or tampering with the copper wire on pivots has been detected.

Up to 10 people, including the farmer and law enforcement officials, can receive an alert through text message, phone call or email, says Julie Stark with Net Irrigate.

Copper wiring thefts from irrigation systems are a concern in some parts of the country, with insurers and law enforcement agencies working to fight the problem, according to published reports.

Often, drug addicts steal copper wiring and sell it for relatively small amounts of money, doing thousands of dollars in damage to the irrigation system during the theft, Stark says.

The problem doesn’t appear to be a big one in the Upper Midwest, at least so far. Milton Lindvig, field representative for the North Dakota Irrigation Association, says he’s not aware of any copper thefts from irrigation systems in the state.

Copper has been stolen from a number of construction sites across the region, according to published reports.

WireRat operates on a battery and requires no external power. Users can receive an alert when thieves tamper with a center pivot’s span cable or well wire.

Net Irrigate also offers its PivotProxy, a monitoring system for electrically driven center pivots. PivotProxy includes the WireRat function, along with safety-stop alerts, remote-shutdown capabilities and GPS functions.

Net Irrigate products are sold and installed through a network of irrigation dealers.

But the company has a suggested list price of $1,349 for PivotProxy. That’s a one-time cost, with no monthly or annual subscription fee.

The suggested list price for WireRat Express is $799. There’s also a monthly subscription fee of $9.99.

Copper prices have declined recently, but that doesn’t seem to have affected thefts from irrigation systems, Stark says.

Net Irrigate started in 2006 as a class project by two MBA students at Indiana University. Edward DeSalle, one of the students, is now the company’s general manager.

More information: www.netirrigate. com.

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