At the crossroads of history and trade for thousands of years, the enterprising county of Meath is a hub of innovation and potential spanning a myriad of industries, writes Barry Walsh.
With a population of 195,044 Meath is the eighth most populous county in the Republic of Ireland the 14th largest by land size.
Boasting tourist destinations such as Newgrange, the Hill of Tara and Trim Castle, there’s no shortage of things to do.
The county is also has a bustling business community with an industrial heritage that includes textiles, furniture and carpets as well as mining, farming and food. Large employers include Tara Mines, Smurfit Kappa as well as SMEs like Trimfold, which recently marked 50 years in business. A new generation of employers in the form of multinationals like Facebook and MSD are changing the industrial landscape of the county while proponents of agriculture and food see the Boyne Valley becoming an epicentre for sustainable European food technology long into the future.
Meath known for its archaeological sites, especially Brú na Bóinne, in the Boyne Valley. Neolithic monuments at this site include the huge, accessible passage tombs of Newgrange and Knowth. Knowth also contains dozens of stones engraved with prehistoric art. Nearby, the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre has trails around the site of this 1690 clash.
A social enterprise based in Julianstown Co Meath, Agrikids was founded by Alma Jordan in 2015. Alma grew frustrated by the number of accidents that were happening on farms that were resulting in injuries and death. 2014 saw the highest number of facilities on a farm on record. Alma wanted to engage, educate and empower children to be farm safety ambassadors and to include more people in the farm safety conversation, not just farmers, and to harness the potential of children to enact change and move farm safety from a place of just awareness to instinctive. She now goes into schools and teaches children about farm safety. She also has a mobile app and book that can educate both children about farm safety. The company won Network Ireland Solo Business woman of the year in 2020 and Agrikids has been nominated for a humanitarian award by the Irish Red Cross and won the 2019 Social Entrepreneur Award. Along with Agri Aware and the IFA it launched the Farm Safe Schools pilot in 2021.
Coole Swan is “a unique blend of single malt Irish whiskey, Belgian white chocolate and fresh dairy cream. A taste experience that lingers for you to savour and enjoy. Made in Ireland, and only in Ireland, Coole Swan is a meticulously crafted liqueur made with heart.” Its products are available in more than 50 locations worldwide including several in John Lewis stores in the UK in addition to several retail outlets in Germany. Its liqueur has received over 50 awards worldwide including their prestigious Australian International Spirits Competition, World Liqueur Awards and Irish Whiskey Awards and with more than 60,000 fans on social media the brand is set for further expansion in 2022.
Created by Ahmad Mu’azzam and Hugh Weldon, Evocco is a social enterprise based in Kells. Born out of a passion for reducing carbon emissions in the food sector: “Evocco is your new eco-friend when it comes to helping you find the most nutritious food for the lowest environmental impact. When you go shopping, all you need to do is snap your receipt, build a basket, and track your progress over time to increasingly discover that it’s easier than ever to match your beliefs with what you buy. Evocco gives you all the tips and tricks you need to train your inner eco-warrior and embrace a more holistically sustainable lifestyle.”
Evocco has won support from some of the biggest supporters of social enterprises such as Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, the UN Environmental Programme and One Planet.
Annie Madden, co-founder of FenuHealth, who recently won Enterprise Ireland’s 2022 Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award with Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Robert Troy TD and Richard Murphy, Department Manager, Leo Support, Policy & Co-Ordination, Enterprise Ireland
FenuHealth company began in 2015 when sisters Kate and Annie Madden, then aged 14 and 13 respectively, worked together on a winning project for the BT Young Scientist. FenuHealth received support from Meath County Council, Horse Racing Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Local Enterprise Offices of Dublin & Meath and BT.
The company now has more than nine products for sale all designed around decreasing the joint and muscle pain of horses. The company has more than 250,000 social media followers, 1,000 happy customers and has sold those products to more than 15 countries worldwide. Recently the company won Enterprise Ireland’s 2022 Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
Having worked abroad in the wedding and events business for over 20 years, Fernwood Flowers founder Brigid Riley returned to Ireland in 2016 and the business from her design studio in Oldcastle, Co Meath. According to its website “Since launching a few years ago, we have become recognised in the Irish wedding industry for exceptional flower design. We believe in using as many local and seasonal flowers as possible to create organic, garden- inspired arrangements which reflect the changing seasons.” Brigid is passionate about using seasonal flowers, some of which come from her own cutting garden which increases their sustainability and reduces carbon emissions. With the Irish wedding industry bouncing back post Covid-19 Brigid’s business is fully booked for the 2022 wedding season but there is still some availability for 2023.
Hexafly is going to use insects to feed the world. With revolutionary breeding and bio-conversion technologies, it maximises the extraction of high-value protein and oil products for the aquaculture, animal feed and plant nutrition industries. It’s process produces no waste, lowers GHG emissions, optimises land usage, utilises industrial and agricultural waste streams and improves animal nutrition and health.
To date Hexafly has raised €5.5m. This funding has been used to build a pilot farm in Meath and complete a number of R&D projects over the last number of years. Hexafly has now proven its rearing, production and processing technology while also developing a world class black soldier fly breeding facility that places Hexafly as a global leader in egg production. Hexafly is now fundraising for a new farm that will be the first of its kind in Ireland. This €40m venture will create over 50 jobs in Ireland and support Ireland’s work toward becoming a food and fertiliser secure country in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.
The business won the 2020 Enterprise Ireland Innovation Arena Awards for the sustainability in agriculture section and the award for Innovation at the 2020 National Enterprise Award.
Growing up on a farm that dated back 200 years and which had been passed down through three generations, Keoghs Crisps officially began creating high quality artisan crisps in 2011, by harvesting and packaging the potatoes that were grown on their farm. The company now employs 120 people in the local area. Keogh’s Crisps now account for nearly 10% of the total Irish crisp market and exports to 20 countries, including the US which recently overtook the United Arab Emirate as the number two market. During 2020 Keoghs Crisps even found time to develop a charity, their Ireland Thanks You fund, which raised €100,000 for frontline healthcare workers.
For many people, playing Minecraft all day and getting paid for it is the dream, but twins Ryan and Scott Fitzsimons managed to turn this dream into reality and are now turning over two million a year on their massively popular YouTube channel. Through their channel and website, Little Lizard Gaming, the twins offer commentary on their worlds in Minecraft. This has led to their videos receiving more than 150m views, and the channel has 1.7m subscribers. Their most recent accounts according to The Irish Times “show that their company, Little Lizard Ltd, recorded revenues of €972,310 or €18,698 a week as it benefited from growing numbers turning to online gaming during Covid-19 lockdowns. That represented a 9% increase on the revenues of €890,722 recorded in 2019. At the end of 2020, the Co Meath registered company was sitting on accumulated profits of €422,422.”
Not to be outdone by her older brothers who run the aforementioned Little Lizard Gaming, Kelly Fitzsimons is also a YouTuber who has enjoyed massive success in recent years. Her creative channel, Little Kelly Minecraft, has more than 2.8m subscribers and since its inception three years ago, her channel has nearly 1.5bn views. Kelly has spoken out about the abuse she gets online being a female YouTube star and uses her Instagram page so young girls can seek advice on how to deal with this type of abuse. She is said to have earned more than €850,000 since the channel was started.
Originally founded in 1984, Stephen McCormack took over the running of the business from his father Edward in 1998. Since then the farm has gone on to diversify the crops that they grow to include crops that can be put into healthier meals like salads and juices. More recently they have gone on to innovate and grow herbs, baby leaves and micro-leaves more commonly found in Europe, which dramatically decreases the cost of importing them and reduces carbon emissions. This has enabled the business to grow sales to approximately €15m per annum. The company now has a range of packaged salads and leaves, recipes and an innovative salad creator on its website.
Founders Martin O’Connell and Keith Yeager created an answer to nose issues.
Nasal Medical is based in Dunboyne and offers a range of products such as allergy aid, snoring aid, travel aid or sport enhancements all designed to clear your nose and make you breathe easier.
Based in Trim, and also having offices in London, Cheshire and Malta the company was founded by husband and wife team Noel and Valerie Moran in 2008. According to their website: “We have built our success by operating as a prepaid cards and payments technology specialist that offers some of the most flexible and quick to market services in the prepaid payments industry – and as a result our partners include national governments, mobile network operators, banks and global blue chip organisations.” The business has won more than 20 awards internationally and in 2020 it was acquired for £131 million by Australian firm EML Payments.