Northern Ireland-based pig producer JMW Farms is spending €2.5 million on a new "finishing" farm in Co Louth after spending three years securing planning permission.
The farm will handle 10,000 pigs at a time, where they will spend 12 weeks before being sent to slaughter.
This investment, funded equally through debt and the company’s own resources, is part of a wider process over the past couple of years to consolidate its operations and move towards producing antibiotic-free pigs.
JMW's Jim Wright is a finalist in the EY Entrepreneur of the Year programme and has spent the past four days in Boston attending its chief executives retreat.
JMW is Ireland's biggest pig producer with about 300,000 animals, selling 7,000 a week (5,000 in Ireland and the balance in the UK). All of its pigs are reared indoors.
The company has annual turnover of £40 million and was a “bit better than breakeven” last year. Mr Wright said 2014 was its “best year” when it made profits of €3 million but the market has turned since them.
JMW’s business model involves buying old farms, securing planning permission and building out new facilities. The company makes all its own equipment, all its own feed, generates its own electricity, and transports the animals itself.
It has 15 company-owned farms and 50 operated by contractors. This includes two breeding farms in Offaly and Monaghan with Louth coming on stream. It also has farms in Dorset and Cornwall in England.
Sainsbury's is its biggest customer in the UK and it exports ribs to the US and feet and heads to China.
Mr Wright said Brexit is a “real unknown” for his business. “I’d much prefer to leave it the way it is.”
A potential implication of Brexit is that border controls would be re-established between north and south, possibly involving permits and tariffs for the transport of animals.
“That would be a mess,” Mr Wright said, who has been in the business for more than 30 years. “Especially with livestock needing permits and all that stuff. I think it would be a big step backways.”
On the future of the business, Mr Wright said: “’We have interest from outside to buy the business so that’s a possibility, but not yet.
We’re doing a good few things at the minute like the antibiotic-free pigs. Nobody else is doing that. It would be nice to get that done.”
Mr Wright declined to put a value on the business but said to put the same operation in place from scratch would cost about £80 million.