Dairy equipment company bullish on growth as farmers seek to expand

Rural revolution: Kerry-based Dairymaster has seen business increase 30%-40%

Dr Edmond Harty (left) and David Fleming, makers of the Moo Monitor, wearable technology for cows that transmits messages to farmers. Photograph: Domnick Walsh

Dr Edmond Harty (left) and David Fleming, makers of the Moo Monitor, wearable technology for cows that transmits messages to farmers. Photograph: Domnick Walsh

 

Dr Edmond Harty is proof that you don’t have to be within shouting distance of Dublin to run a successful manufacturing business. His dairy equipment company, Dairymaster, may sit on the edge of the island, in Causeway, Co Kerry, but it has supplied milking parlours and farm equipment to farmers from as far away as Iran, New Zealand and New York state.

The 2012 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year now employs 300 people in Causeway and began a new recruitment drive for 50 additional staff just before Christmas in an effort to attract the emigrants returning home on holiday.

So does he think the ending of the milk quota regime will give a major boost to his business? “Our busiest time is always that period from October to March when cows are not being milked, or milked as much, and farmers have time to do stuff. It has been exceptionally busy for us this year, especially in the Irish market,” Dr Harty says.

“People are definitely looking towards expansion and the size of parlours is going up. I’d say the Irish market is between 30 and 40 per cent up.”

Non-EU states

But Irish farmers are just one group of customers and a third of his business comes from non-EU states. “We’re in a lot of markets, from Japan to Russia to New Zealand, but we think there is a lot more opportunity out there.”

He believes the expansion of the dairy sector will boost a range of businesses. “There’s an opportunity for all the businesses depending upon farming. For our company we think a big factor will be around the focus of farmers on increasing efficiency. As you get bigger you want to get more efficient and we believe there will be a lot more technology used in farming to help them do this.”

Dairymaster also makes wearable technology for cows, in the form of the Moo Monitor. The latest version is a collar that monitors the cow’s health and fertility and sends alerts to the farmer’s phone.

“I think you’ll see a lot more about looking at the performance of individual cows, not the herd,” Dr Harty says. “Facebook and Google are all about personalisation, providing the content appropriate to you and it’s the exact same issue when you look at the health and fertility of cows. Our mission is about using science and technology to make dairy farming either more profitable, enjoyable or sustainable, so that plays right into that.”

His recruitment drive has been looking for sales and marketing professionals, German- speaking product-support engineers, welders and mobile-app developers. All of which is good news for the southwest.

“The farthest commuting distance for our employees would be about an hour away but the vast majority of people live within half an hour from us.”

Rural areas

He says there won’t be an instant lift in rural areas when the quota regime ends on March 31st but it will come slowly.

“Agriculture and tourism are probably the only industries that affect every corner of the country and every parish and I think there is an opportunity to link them together. We should be making Ireland famous for food when people come to visit. Wouldn’t it be nice in 20 years if Ireland could be at the top of the list when people ask: Where do you go for good food?”

Dr Harty believes the food industry will drive the economy if the expansion is handled correctly. “I honestly believe this is a thing that Ireland could be exceptionally good at,” he says.

“And it’s sustainable, not like what happened in the last five or 10 years with property and all that. If we can all do our jobs better than the next, then we should win more business.”