Farrelly Brothers’ Willow Energy Project Wins JFC Innovation Awards
The overall winners of the JFC Innovation Awards for Rural Business are Patrick and Peter Farrelly, of Farrelly Bros. Willow Project, Carnaross, Kells, County Meath. The Awards, which recognise the achievements of innovative rural-based companies, were presented by Mr John Concannon of JFC in Cavan this week. The Awards are organised jointly by Teagasc, the Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland, the Irish Farmers’ Journal and Leader and are sponsored by JFC. Thirteen farmers and rural-based finalists from all over the country were in contention for the €40,000 prize fund.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Brendan Smith TD, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food congratulated all the winners and said, “Innovation is a driver of the economy and one immediate benefit of the JFC Innovation Awards for Rural Business is to increase public awareness of the potential of rural business to generate economic activity. While farming remains a crucial element, the economic and social development of rural areas is no longer synonymous solely with agriculture but encompasses the entire rural community. This is reflected in the diversity of participants and ideas among the finalists.”
The winning Farrelly Bros. Willow Project is a large-scale venture working with farmers, to grow willow for use as an energy crop. Farrelly Bros. will prepare the land and harvest the crop, making it an attractive option for farmers. They hope to have 1,000 acres this year, and plan to expand to 20,000 acres in the next few years. The harvested willow is used in the production of high quality woodchip, which is a renewable and carbon neutral energy source. Farrelly Bros. will use this woodchip to supply industrial and commercial users and to supply its own electricity generating CHP (combined heat and power) plant. Farrelly Bros. is a sister company to TimberPro, also based in Kells who manufacture and distribute quality wood pellets, wood chip and Ecobric in Ireland.
In addition to the overall winners there were four category winners. The Ring of Kerry Quality Lamb group won the Value Added/Speciality Food Category award. This group of farmers market and sell lamb directly to customers.
Meanwhile, there were two joint winners of the Start-up Category. Eggs Direct run by Tom O’Brien of Thrasherstown, Whitechurch, County Cork were one of the winners in this category. Eggs Direct, as the name implies, sells eggs through a dispensing machine direct to the customer. The other joint winners of this category were Brid and Roger Fahy who are dairy farmers in Linnalla, New Quay, County Clare for their new business selling home pasteurised milk directly to customers.
The winner of the Services/Rural Tourism Category was Robert Goligher of Kee Boarding Kennels and Cattery based in Eglinton in County Derry for his new concept - a Chapel of Rest Pet Crematorium.
Value added / Speciality Food Category Winners
The Ring of Kerry group is a group of 26 farmers based around the Ring of Kerry who have come together to market top quality lamb directly to the public. Since their launch last July they have made a real impact selling both locally and further afield. Sales come through their freephone number and through the website. Local deliveries are made with their own refrigerated van and a courier is used to reach customers around the country. Restaurants are particularly keen to order as customers are demanding local quality products. They sell whole or half lambs, aged for a full seven days and vac packed in convenient sizes. Chairman of the group is Tim Fleming and he said that the motivation to set up the group came from consistently low lamb prices and farmers realising they needed to do something about it themselves.
Joint Start-up Category Winners
Tom O’Brien of Thrasherstown, Whitechurch runs Eggs Direct. Tom is a traditional free range egg producer who has decided to buck the trend and sell his eggs direct to the public via vending machines. He feels that by selling directly and cutting out the middle man he will be bringing best value to consumers. The first Eggs Direct egg vending machine is already up and running outside Tom’s own farm. This venture has been so successful that six more are now on order and will be placed at independent retail outlets around Cork. Operation is simplicity itself, the customer pops in the money and a tray of 30 eggs is immediately dispensed. Freshness and quality are guaranteed, consumers will have fresh laid eggs with a 28 day best before date. Tom will keep the vending machines stocked and his 5,000 free range hens will keep on laying.
Joint Start-up Category Winners
Brid and Roger Fahy are dairy farmers in Linnalla, New Quay and their new business is selling home pasteurised milk directly to the public through specialist “Latteria” milk vending machines. Roger first saw the concept work on the continent where milk dispensers are common at farmers’ markets. Recent low milk prices gave him the motivation to try it for himself. Consumers will bring their own containers (0.5 to 5 litres) to the Latteria dispenser, insert coins and leave with cool fresh farm milk. The Fahys will pasteurise the milk at home and keep the dispenser filled. The Fahys already have a successful “Linnalla” ice cream business so they are no strangers to agri-diversification.
Services/Rural Tourism Category Winners
Robert Goligher of Kee Boarding Kennels and Cattery came up with a new concept – the Chapel of Rest Pet Crematorium. This innovative service will be quite similar to a regular crematorium. The Chapel will give people a place and opportunity to say goodbye to their beloved pets with dignity. The idea came from existing customers in the Kennels when it was realised there is a genuine need for the service. A survey confirmed the interest in the crematorium and also revealed the reluctance of pet owners to leave a pet’s grave in their garden when they moved house. Cremation and subsequently receiving a decorative urn of ashes is a much preferred option. Robert Goligher hopes to start construction of The Chapel of Rest shortly and plans to be open later in the summer.