Farm Ireland

Sunday 17 December 2017

Rural inspiration keeps on coming

Now's your chance to take a look at the final three ideas for Higher Ground series

Paul McCarthy

WE ARE now into the final three shows of Higher Ground, the rural entrepreneurial series. After six months of intense work, filming wrapped up last Thursday in Co Louth. Feedback on the show has been positive, although the earlier time of 8pm has been difficult for many farmers to make on a summer's evening.

If you missed any of the earlier shows, the last three can still be played online through the RTE realplayer on

The show is also broadcast on RTE 1 each Wednesday.

Show 6

  • Time: Tomorrow
  • Business Name:
  • Location: Kilkee, Co Clare and Croom, Co Limerick

This is a show that will be of interest to dairy farmers. Pat Talty and Matt Costelloe's business idea, that the public would ditch milk cartons in favour of refilling containers and using milk vending machines, is certainly novel for Ireland.

Pat and Matt together formed a limited company after they secured the distribution rights to the Italian manufactured Latteria milk vending machines. Buying fresh milk through vending machines is common on the continent, with more than 1,200 such machines in Italy. The question is, will Irish consumers buy into it?

  • Challenges: Pat and Matt's was a new partnership formed around them both having the same idea at the same time.

The first job was to clarify roles and set out a strategy for winning over both farmers and consumers. With a novel idea, the concept needed to be proven in a small number of locations.

Issues relating to safe supply chain, strict Department of Agriculture food hygiene regulations and any other logistic pitfalls needed to be ironed out. In order to attract farmers' interest, a comprehensive package and step-by-step roadmap with realistic projections needed to be developed.

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Show 7

  • Time: Wednesday, August 25
  • Business Name: Speed-Flexor
  • Location: Abbeyknockmoy, Co Galway

Ned Burns is no ordinary beef farmer. As a fitness coach, he recognised that a lack of flexibility and imbalance between the left and right legs was causing many sports injuries.

On further investigation, he discovered that scientific research backed up his theory.

He approached Galway County Enterprise Board, which lent its support and, with the help of John Concannon at JFC in Tuam, the SpeedFlexor prototype was put into commercial production.

Ned's enthusiasm for flexibility is surely unrivalled. Within five minutes of first meeting him, he had me on the SpeedFlexor being measured for imbalances.

  • Challenges: When we first met Ned, he had no sales or no orders. He was also lacking in many of the basics, from a proper working office to not being sure of the next steps to take. We had to get Ned selling, and for that he needed a sales pitch. At €500 each, we also realised the Irish market would be limited for the SpeedFlexor to have a viable business. Exports would be the only game in town.

Show 8

  • Time: Wednesday, September 1
  • Business Name: Imecofarm
  • Location: Clarecastle, Co Clare

When orders for Eddie O'Connor's kitchen business dried up, he needed a new idea. The former woodwork teacher turned to his old skills and began teaching adults and children about becoming more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Eddie had developed hands-on training courses such as his four-day building-your-own-wind-turbine session. Like many farmers, on his land he had a beautiful but dilapidated outbuilding, which he decided would make a perfect training venue. He began renovating it and with the help of LEADER support, he also began developing a series of nature trails around the farm. He also had accumulated a vast array of old farm machinery and so Eddie's eco-farm was born.

  • Challenges: The good thing about Eddie is that anything is a possibility and nothing is ever ruled out. This also turned out to be our greatest challenge.

One day a poly tunnel suddenly appeared as Eddie felt his eco-farm needed one for teaching people to grow their own food. We needed Eddie to focus on what he was offering and develop specific packages and courses that would generate actual revenue.

Recap of the show so far..

  • Show 1: Niall and Andrew from Ballymote in Sligo with their 'Garden in a box'. Website:
  • Show 2: Young mother Ann Marie Durkin from Granard in Co Longford developed a range of baby steriliser products but needs investors to bring the one with big potential to a global market. See
  • Show 3: Former dairy farmer Tommy Bree sets his sights on developing a state-of-the-art golf academy on his land in Strandhill, Co Sligo. See
  • Show 4: Paul Harmon wants to get a new type of tour business up and running in Mayo, with electric bikes as the mode of transport. Visit his website at
  • Show 5: Teresa Keogh from Tullow, Co Carlow, wants to revive the art of sewing and help establish sewing schools all over Ireland. Visit her website,

Irish Independent