Tiny tractor to train farmers on rollover prevention

The remote-controlled vehicle is a collaboration between KAP, the University of Manitoba and Red River College

A remote-controlled mini-tractor will train ag students and farmers on rollover prevention without putting them in harms’ way.

The Mini Rollover Training Tractor (or “tippy tractor” as one collaborator called it) is a to-scale, electric, remote-controlled tractor which ag students and farmers can use to experiment and problem-solve in situations that might lead to tractor rollovers.

Though when the little grey tractor rolled out at Glenlea Research Station on July 16, it proved very hard to tip. Driver Jeongsoo Bae took several runs at slopes and a culvert, but only popped up a tire here and there. It never flipped onto its training-wheel-style outriggers.

A reporter at the controls ran it into a bush, however.

The “Mini ROTT” was built in a collaboration between the University of Manitoba, Red River College and Keystone Agricultural Producers.

Incidents involving tractors and machinery is a leading cause of on-farm deaths. However, few farmers get tractor safety training, said Thea Green, program coordinator with KAP.

Training farmers get is usually, “passed down from our families, who also might not have received direct safety training,” she said.

The ROTT project began when the U of M and KAP teamed up to hold a tractor training day for agricultural diploma students. One training event was related to rollovers.

“We really struggled with how to teach this in a safe way that was meaningful,” said Green.

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The training day was well received, but Green said she and KAP farm safety consultant Morag Marjerison knew they needed to tackle the problem.

With a team of farmers, farm safety consultants, educators and engineers, they sat down and put together a “wish list” of what a training device might look like.

Students and professionals from Red River College’s Technology Access Centre for Aerospace and Manufacturing (TACAM) designed and built the ROTT with support from RRC’s Vehicle Technology and Energy Centre (VTEC).

Research technologist Jeongsoo Bae drives the ROTT at the Glenlea Research Station on July 16.
photo: Geralyn Wichers

TACAM research tech Tom Prud’homme said he’d modelled the tractor on his 1965 Farmall. Its weight is distributed similarly to a full-sized tractor. It has an adjustable wheel-base and a detachable front-end loader. Though its driven remotely, the ROTT sends a camera feed to the remote for a tractor-eye view.

In the future, this may allow for a virtual-reality style experience, said Green.

The plan is to build a course for the ROTT so ag diploma students or farmers can navigate different slopes and obstacles, observe when the tractor’s wheels come up, and when it tips. Then they can analyze and troubleshoot as a class.

To-scale implements may eventually be added.

Machinery rollovers are one of the leading causes of farm fatalities in Canada. About 17 per cent of farm fatalities are caused by machine rollovers according to a 2016 report from the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association. Machine runovers and being struck or pinned by machinery were also leading culprits.

“When learning experiences are novel, they’re retained a lot longer,” said Green, “and this is one that we’d really like people to retain.”

About the author

Reporter

Geralyn Wichers

Geralyn Wichers grew up on a hobby farm near Anola, Manitoba, where her family raised cattle, pigs and chickens. Geralyn graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in 2019 and was previously a reporter for The Carillon in Steinbach. Geralyn is also a published author of science fiction and fantasy novels.

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