An AgriLand journalist has won a major international award, which recognises world-class reporting on the agri-technology sector.

Rachel Martin picked up the IFAJ/Caterpillar AgTech Reporting Award at a ceremony in the city of Minneapolis, in the US state of Minnesota, during the world congress of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ).

Rachel, a “proud Co. Down woman”, beat off stiff competition from other members of the IFAJ, which encompasses journalists from 50 countries around the world.

Rachel won the award for a story published on AgriLand last year entitled ‘Bring out the laser! On-farm drone and laser trials to begin in Northern Ireland‘.

The winning story was based on the next stages of AgriSearch’s pioneering GrassCheck project, where researchers intend to start trials into drone and laser technology on farms. Currently, the project provides grass growth forecasts as well as close to ‘real-time’ analysis of samples for farmers who volunteer to be part of the project.

Rachel found that the project was particularly valuable to farmers during last summer’s drought as it allowed them to secure buffer feed ahead of time.

Responding to her win, Rachel said: “When you have such exciting inspiration, writing the story is the easy part.

Regular AgriLand readers will know that I love to dig into the latest agricultural research – and, for me, that’s even more exciting when it’s happening right here with local farmers.

Highlighting the importance of covering agri-technology, Rachel said: “We live in the information age, yet I have heard several researchers say the most frustrating part of their job is when their findings fall on deaf ears.

“In an era where margins are as tight as they are and precision on farms is key, what they are doing is becoming ever more important,” she added.

“I try my best to take the most interesting research projects, cut the jargon and write pieces which are engaging and relevant to farmers, so they can consider how new technology or ideas might fit into their businesses.

Reader feedback is the biggest incentive for me to keep doing what I’m doing, but it is both an honour and surprise to be recognised internationally too.

Rachel added that she looks forward to continuing to follow the work of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) – which is also involved in the GrassCheck project – and she thanked the team there for their assistance.

It’s worth noting that Belfast-based TV-production company Crawford McCann won the broadcast video award for its ‘Brexit: Farming on the Edge’ documentary, while RTÉ’s Damien O’Reilly was the joint winner of the broadcast audio section for his coverage of the fodder crisis.

Other winners included South African journalist Lindi Botha and Australian journalists Melanie Groves and Cassandra Hough.