‘Nobody took me seriously’: Irish woman on starting a farm machinery company at 16
Father’s illness from pesticide fumes inspires daughter to invent life saving technology
Starting a business in the farm machinery sector as a 16-year-old girl is a challenge is probably the understatement of her life, but for Kerry woman Marie Martin it was a reality.
Marie, who's now 22, invented a top selling product to improve farm safety and to help farmers to protect their health and she is in the driving seat to become a Nissan Generation Next ambassador.
The Dingle woman was inspired when her father fell sick after a day spraying pesticides on their family farm in Kerry.
“A few years ago (when I was 15) my father was out spraying weed killer on the farm, after a long hard days work he found himself feeling rather ill.
“It turns out my father had become sick from the exposure of the fumes of weed killer.
“I was driving the tractor and he was operating a hand lance on the back of the tractor.
"He was wearing all the protective clothing. But still he fell really sick.
“My father is a typical Irish man and it takes lot for him to attend the doctor. He had terrible vomiting and gastro intestinal issues from the chemicals in the spray. This is how the Safe Scrub Sprayer was born,” she explained.
"I was in transition years and the young entrepreneurs programme. I took the opportunity to find a solution to the problem."
Marie learned how to weld at a very young age and after producing severely prototypes she hit on the Safe Scrub system.
The Safe Scrub Sprayer is a front loader mounted sprayer that eliminates all exposure to the noxious fumes that accompany weed killers.
The Safe Scrub Sprayer is activated from inside the tractor cab and the operator can adjust the height, width and angle all from the comfort and safety of the tractor cab.
The SSS can be adjusted up to 6ft out on either side of the tractor, depending on wind direction this prevents any back drift on the the tractor.
“Given that we are now in the 21st century, I found it ridiculous that the level of accidents on farms were so high. Solutions are required to make farmers’ work safe.
“As a result of my own family’s experience I was motivated from the age of 15 to build an international company that could make farms a safer places to work, and would assist to reducing the number of workplace accidents on farms and in the future reduce fatalities drastically.
“Entrepreneurship has become an integral part of my life, I am personally motivated to prove that most females should aspire to be successful entrepreneurs.
“As a female that has built a successful company in a male dominated sector I want to prove to others that they can follow my example; and as a result of my actions that they can take their first steps to achieving their goals,” she said.
"Health and safety is a universal issue. The Safe Scrub Sprayer is the first in a large pipeline of innovative products that we want to produce.
"We are on our third generation of the Safe Scrub Sprayer at the moment. We began with a static version back in 2012."
Male dominated industry
According to Marie, she fell in love with agriculture from a very young age. "There are three girls in our house and our brother is the youngest. So we (girls) where thrown into it. I learned how to drive the tractor when I was very young.
“I fell in love with agriculture. It’s been my life,” she said.
Marie explained that much of her interest in farming stems from her father.
“My father thought me how to weld when I was young. My dad was very innovate himself and is very good with his hands. He makes is own cattle troughs, gates, sheds etc."
"As a 15-year-old girl in the agri machinery business, nobody took me serious and this was a massive challenge at the start.
“But I got tremendous support from my father and all the family,” she said.
“I want to change perceptions, I want females to be involved in both entrepreneurship and agriculture.”
“I had never planned a business. I just wanted to make the one for our farm. But a business grew out of it. There mas a market opportunity there and it really took off.
“We’re now selling in the Ireland, UK, France and Germany.
Maire’s list of achievements and awards to date seems unending and includes being a University College Cork Quercus Scholar; Irish representative in EO GSEA (Global Student Entrepreneurial Awards) 2017; IBYE 2017 Best Established Business Cork; University College Cork Entrepreneur of the Year 2016; Winner of the Irish Student Entrepreneurial Forum 2016; and Winner of BOI’s Campus Challenge Best Pitch Competition.
As a consequence of starting up Martin’s Safety Equipment, she received a Quercus Innovation and Entrepreneurial Scholarship in University College Cork, which she says has been of tremendous support.
It has allowed me to balance both, my academia and the running of a business.
"I am currently studying a Bachalor of Commerce in UCC. Studying Commerce has allowed me to take what I’m learning in the classroom and apply it to my business. I love education.
"I love learning about business’ experiences and success and failures, and the reasons behind their success/failure. It is my love for learning that has lead me to studying an entrepreneurial and innovational course in Harvard Summer School, Boston. The course is a difficult one, but I’m enjoying every minute of it.
"The fact that I’m abroad during the duration of this competition is making running my campaign rather difficult. This is why I need a big push in support from everyone at home!"
To vote for Marie, log on to https://www.nissangenerationnext.ie/entry/candidate/80
For Stories Like This and More
Download the Free Farming Independent App