Amid the rush for increased use of digital technology in farming, it can be easy to forget that a different form of technology is still very much the backbone of every farm operation. Farmers need strong, reliable, innovative machinery and engineering solutions to improve their processes, save labour costs and ensure profitability in farming.
Irish companies have been exporting farm machinery around the world for generations. Enterprise Ireland nurtures and champions Irish companies that are export focused and ready to scale-up their manufacturing capabilities and enter new markets. Areas where Irish companies are leading the way in agricultural manufacturing solutions include mixing and feeding, grass management, dairy, water management and general farm machinery.
Excellence in farm machinery
Abbey Machinery manufacturers a wide range of slurry and manure handling equipment, grassland management equipment and animal feeding equipment.
Michael O’Grady is Abbey’s Sales, Marketing and Business Development Manager. “We have machinery to cover both ends of the cow,” he says. “Our diet feeders are unique in how precise they are, chopping and mixing the feed, and doing it efficiently so that the machine runs on one of the lowest horsepower motors on the market.
“Then after the feed passes through the animal, we have machines to handle the waste and spread it on to the land in an environmentally friendly way. Our applicators significantly reduce carbon emissions and significantly reduce fertiliser requirements by the farmer because it gets the slurry down below the canopy of the crop.”
Agricultural conditions vary around the world, so Abbey makes sure to make the best match between their machines and their export markets.
Mr O’Grady explains: “In every market, we compete with big international manufacturers, local manufacturers, and other importers like ourselves. We work closely with our dealers to ensure we put the right product group in their market, we don’t ever put stock in there unless we know they’re going to sell it. We give them the support to sell the machines – whether that’s training or support at shows – and that is a big help which our dealers appreciate.”
ProDig brought its expertise in manufacturing machine attachments for the construction sector into agriculture 10 years ago, and quickly developed a reputation for the quality and versatility of its machinery.
Donny Nolan, co-founder and director of ProDig, explains: “We have some unique attachments, multi-purpose machinery, that will do the job of three attachments, so the farmer only has to buy one.”
ProDig’s product range includes Shear Grabs, Shear Buckets, Bale Handling Attachments, Folding Grass forks, Hi Tip Buckets, and Bag fillers – all of which are designed and manufactured at the company’s purpose-built factory in County Carlow in Ireland.
Donny believes that the importance of agriculture to the Irish economy means that companies have an acute understanding of what farmers need to support their work.
He says: “Even in the most basic products, Irish manufacturers are excelling – they’re innovating in machinery as much as any other area to make farming more profitable. Much of the rise in tech solutions from Irish companies has come out of the background in heavy machinery and engineering – it’s a symbiotic relationship. If you make the basics better, you make the overall better.”
Market-leading expertise can be found in many companies supported by Enterprise Ireland. Tanco Autowrap’s patented packaging systems for bale wrapping include machines, which allow for simultaneous bale unloading and next bale re-loading, as well as automatic loading.
Keenan Systems made its name more than 30 years ago manufacturing very robust animal feed mixer wagons. However, their ability to demonstrate the benefits of their machines has been a real game changer.
Keenan CEO, Robbie Walker explains: “Ten years ago we realised that farmers were no longer just content with solid engineering, they wanted to buy something that gave a good output, so we started showing farmers that if they used our feeding machines they would see better results. For example, dairy farmers were going to be producing more milk from less resource, and that they were going to have a better carbon footprint and lower emissions.
“We got some patents for that and that gave us quite a global renown for this approach. Then more recently, through using digital technology, we started selling a consulting service along with the machine to ensure that farmers can get the most benefit from it.
“My current view is that we don’t sell products anymore, we provide a service and that service allows us to then sell products. That’s been the big change.”
This convergence of machinery and technology provides the best outcome for farmers in terms of efficiency and profitability, and it is here that many Irish companies are demonstrating a market-leading advantage.