Acres Machinery is an award-winning agri-machinery design and engineering company, based in Co. Roscommon. Here, CEO David Doran outlines some of the significant progress being made by this innovative agtech startup.
One of our latest developments is the Supercrop 1 crop conditioner. It’s a machine designed to reduce both the time and costs involved in the wilting of silage and hay and targeted at both silage contractors and large-scale farmers. Wilting grass reduces the moisture content of the crop in the field and plays a vital role in the process of quality silage and hay preservation, prior to it being baled or placed in the silage pit. The machine is now for sale worldwide across sixty countries in cooperation with leading Italian agri machinery manufacturer Sitrex. Recently, we were also delighted to have been selected as an Enterprise Ireland-backed HPSU company.
How does the machine work in practice?
Supercrop 1’s innovative design eliminates the need for three separate machines – the rake, conditioner and tedder, combining all three functions into a single machine. This design combination brings greater efficiencies such as the ability to simultaneously rake and condition altogether, in one go. This is quite a compelling proposition and means that you get better-quality forage, higher dry matter digestibility, better formed bales, eliminating at least one field pass, along with the ability to get your crop off the ground a day earlier.
“Supercrop 1’s innovative design eliminates the need for three separate machines – the rake, conditioner and tedder, combining all three functions into a single machine.”
What problems do you solve for the contractor?
The silage contractor gets paid per bale or per acre and looks to get in and out of the field as quickly and efficiently as possible. Most contractors don’t get paid for raking, which they carry out for their own benefit, to help row up the crop – just prior to pick up by the baler or forage harvester. Often the contractor hits the problem of a clogged baler or harvester which in turn means that the farmer loses out on quality. Our conditioner helps avoid this issue, allowing the farmer to focus on quality and the contractor to focus on efficiency.
How did you get into this line of work?
From a young age, I was good with my hands and I was forever making something. I really enjoyed and got great satisfaction out of building and creating bits and pieces of machinery. I had that passion for engineering and machinery, which laid a great foundation for me to work in this area.
“Often the contractor hits the problem of a clogged baler or harvester which in turn means that the farmer loses out on quality. Our conditioner helps avoid this issue, allowing the farmer to focus on quality and the contractor to focus on efficiency.”
Who do you admire in business and why?
I admire a range of business people, beginning with Michael O’Leary and the way he revolutionised the airline industry in Europe; Steve Jobs and how he used design to transform the communications industry; Henry Ford for streamlining production in the car industry. I also admire Pat McDonagh of Supermacs who had the courage to take on some of the biggest players in the global food industry in a major legal battle, establishing a landmark case for smaller sized businesses, trying to establish their brand around the world.
What skills or attributes have been useful in your business journey so far?
Networking and not being afraid to ask for help or to offer help have been important factors in helping the business grow. Sometimes it’s about going to events, meeting people and telling them what you do. For instance, six months ago I was at an event and began chatting to a fellow-attendee who was attending the same conference. We hadn’t met previously and while waiting for the conference to start, we just started chatting over a cup of coffee. That meeting proved serendipitous and we are now at the stage of putting together a multi-million-euro investment for an exciting new project.
“Networking and not being afraid to ask for help or to offer help have been important factors in helping the business grow.”
By attending international conferences, you see what’s going on in the world as well as learning what’s going on in other people’s minds. Ireland is a brilliant place for developing agricultural machinery and technology, but you can’t just base things on the Irish market. I believe it’s important to travel abroad, to see a different scale and type of agriculture and different ways of thinking about farming and approaching problems that need to be solved.
How important has innovation been in helping the business grow?
It’s basically what the business is all about. Acres Machinery wouldn’t have started without it and it won’t proceed without it. Innovation is key and you must keep moving with the times. I am constantly trying to match what is going on at farm level; to what is going on in the machinery side of things; even down to the production of parts; how that is done, how equipment is assembled, what’s the latest technology and finally to what will actually work on the field.
Interview by Brendan Byrne