Farmer builds brilliant product following life-changing injury

After suffering a life-changing injury, vegetable farmer Dick Weldon turned his problem into an opportunity which has turned out to be very successful.
Farming is recognised as one of Ireland’s most dangerous occupations, linked no doubt to the challenges of weather, shortage of labour and mechanisation. In November 2011 vegetable farmer, Dick Weldon experienced a life-changing event on his farm in Co. Meath. While carrying out a maintenance job on his purpose-built vegetable harvester; a spanner slipped and hit a sensor, switching on the machine, resulting in the loss of use of his arm – and a premature end to his farming career.
Turning a problem into an opportunity has been the hallmark of many start-up businesses. This is a story of resilience, about a man using his creative talents to manufacture a rehabilitation tool called proFITSTICK. A tool developed to help himself and others, deal with the suffering from injury and pain.
Innovation experience
In 1992 we took over the farm from my father. We started with a 40 acre vegetable farm and by 2013, we finished up farming on 450 acres, growing 100 acres of parsnips and 50 acres of brassica’s every year. As a grower, making it easier to harvest parsnips on wet ground was a problem that needed to be solved. The inspiration for a solution arose, from a national school trip to the midlands, back some 50 years ago. The tour was to a Bord na Mona (BNM) plant, where large tractors on tracks, were able to travel with ease across bogs, extracting and milling peat. Over the years that image stayed with me and it sparked the question as to ‘why not build something on tracks that could help lift produce out of the ground?’
In 1998 there were four main parsnip producers in Ireland, all with a similar

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Taking out risks is key to businesses impacted by Brexit

Bank of Ireland’s Lee Evans and Pierce Butler sat down to discuss Brexit and the importance of taking away any risks to your business. 

Bank of Ireland’s treasury manager with global markets Paul Fleming sat down with head of FX trading, Lee Evans, and Pierce Butler, head of sectors, to discuss the latest developments on Brexit.

With so much uncertainty around what is going on in the UK, Bank of Ireland’s vodcast provided a timely update on what we need to be aware of ahead of the most crucial six months since Britain voted to leave the European Union.

Lee Evans opened the discussion by talking about where Brexit stands at the moment. “The EU offered the UK an extension to the 31st of October and that extension is flexible. If the UK government can get the withdrawal agreement passed through the House of Commons, they will leave the EU on the first day of the following month.

“There are two key points in time to keep in mind; the end of May – if the UK do not partake in the EU parliamentary elections at the end of May, then they will leave either with or without a deal on the first of June. After that, if we don’t see a deal between June and October, then the 31st of October will become the new deadline,” said Evans.

While businesses are in Ireland are crying out for clarity around what they will be faced with going forward, there was massive relief that there wasn’t a no-deal Brexit at the end of March, according to Pierce Butler. “This extension means that there is continued uncertainty as to what the final outcome will be and I think that’s unwelcomed from a business perspective,” he said.

“Various different reports have shown over recent months that a number of firms are postponing their investment decisions until they get that clarity. But we have also seen a number of companies deciding to go ahead with those decisions and there’s a number of reasons behind it; in some cases they don’t see themselves being impacted by Brexit, or in a lot of cases, companies just aren’t in the position where they can postpone that investment until that post 2020 scenario. Our message is to come and talk to us because we are keen to support them and help them develop their business,” added Butler.  

In relation to the currency markets, there hasn’t been a huge reaction to Brexit. “Currency markets were expecting some kind of an extension. Euro-Sterling was trading at 86p going into it, and it’s still broadly trading around that area. To move forward, we need to see some sort of clarity for currency markets to react.

“We’ve tried to engage with customers and what we have being saying since January is to try take the uncertainty and risk out of your business. We have being saying that the risks are two-sided for businesses and customers need to be aware of that,” said Evans.

Butler echoed those thoughts, saying, “I think a number of companies have been proactive in terms of understanding the potential impact of Brexit and for those that haven’t, we encourage them to do so. As Lee mentioned, while the extension is until the end of October, they could leave between now and then if they can get the majority agreement through. Firstly, understand the impact and engage with the revenue if you are going to be trading with the UK and then look and your supply chain and route to market.”

Here to help

Bank of Ireland is supporting customers through a dedicated team of dealers who are up to speed on what is going on with Brexit. There is also a Brexit portal which gives great information and updates, which you can access here, and the bank has also increased the unsecured FX fund from €20 million to €50 million.

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Waterford whisky ready for global success

Waterford Distillery is a single malt whiskey distillery located in Waterford City. Here CEO, Mark Reynier provides an update on progress and of his ambition to create the most profound single malt whisky that has ever been seen.
What makes Waterford Distillery unique?
We utilise leading-edge machinery and equipment that you would normally never find in a distillery. As an example, we have a ‘mash filter’ used primarily in brewing for efficiency purposes but for us it acts as a ‘terroir-extractor’, allowing us to input the individual farm-grown barley that we put into the distillery. We also source our barley from over forty different farms, keeping the barley from each farm separate from field, to farm, to barrel, to bottle. This means we can build up a library of component mini-Waterford Whiskey that we can then play with in creative ways to create the most profound single malt whisky that has ever been seen.
What attracted you to the world of distilling?
What attracted me was an opportunity to make a difference in an industry that I believed was massively consolidated and industrial; and had lost the very essence of what it was originally all about – which was growing barley locally with individuality of flavour, associated with distilling on a local basis.
“We utilise leading-edge machinery and equipment that you would normally never find in a distillery.”
What were the challenges into converting a state-of-the-art brewery into a distillery?
Having to convert and transform a cutting-edge brewery into a working distillery was the foremost challenge that we encountered. Fortunately, our site manager Paul McCusker had previously been employed here and had also worked on dismantling the original site, so it made perfect sense that he could help in the re-equipment of the site.
The next step was getting back the guys who used to work here

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A digital picnic is hitting Ireland’s southeast

The one day event will focus on best practices on social and digital for start-ups and small businesses in Ireland’s southeast. 

The Hatch Lab, a digital innovation hub in Gorey and partnership between Bank of Ireland and Wexford County Council, is sponsoring Southeast Digital Picnic, an exciting event to help businesses grow in Ireland’s southeast using social and digital marketing strategies.

Southeast Digital Picnic is the best social and digital marketing conference in the Southeast. Attending the event will be some of the world’s leading social and digital experts to deliver in-depth insights, combined with practical workshops that promises to be an exceptional day of digital learning and networking with a picnic theme.

Southeast Digital Picnic is Ireland’s first social media and digital marketing picnic themed conference with nine incredible speakers and two interactive workshops to help businesses grow their online presence.

This one day event is ideal for start-ups, small business owners, brands, agencies, marketers, bloggers, creatives and freelancers who are looking to implement the latest social and digital technologies and trends to improve their business. Attendees will benefit from expert insights on various topics including video marketing, social media strategy, Facebook ads, content marketing, working with influencers, SEO, PPC, understanding key metrics, community building and more.

Founder and event organiser, Sarah-Jane Vincent, who is also the owner of Miss Content Creative said, “In today’s modern world, disruptive technology is rapidly changing the way consumers interact and engage with brands. This presents a number of challenges for businesses, therefore it is vital for them to learn how to embrace social and digital technologies to ensure they remain relevant and work smarter as an industry.”

With IE Domain Registry (IEDR) recently announcing Gorey as ‘Digital Town 2018’, a social and digital conference such as Southeast Digital Picnic brings a day of inspiration, exciting opportunities and actionable insights to the community. Both local and global businesses will be able to learn, network and engage directly with industry experts and leverage the latest social and digital best practices.

Southeast Digital Picnic will take place on June 20th at Wells House and Gardens, Ballyedmond, Gorey, Co. Wexford. To learn more and book Early Bird tickets visit Southeast Digital Picnic. 

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The importance of finding time to think

Taking time out to give your brain the opportunity to think can really benefit you in your role.
In today’s fast-paced world, companies need new products, services and innovations to stay competitive. Many employees are expected to be creative and to continuously develop better solutions for their customers.
This is hard because employees are so busy keeping up with day-to-day operations. Even if employees want to be creative it can be hard to find the time to think.
Why do we need time to think?
Time to think is so important for every company as the real value add work requires it. To develop new ideas or improve the current operations, our brains need time.
How many times you have woken in the middle of the night with a great idea? Or come up with genius solutions in the shower? Why does this happen? It happens because our brains are free from all the usual day-to-day clutter and have a chance to form and develop ideas.
No time to think
Look at the environment most people work in these days. The opportunity to be creative is low. Most offices are open plan, everyone has multiple devices and distracting notifications. Add in the pressure of changing deadlines and high customer expectations.
Plan time to think
To recreate that decluttered brain, it is important be proactive and block time within your work schedule. When you are planning your week, spot the opportunity. Maybe you have an hour first thing before your meetings start or a two hour slot at the end of the day. Guard this time with your life. Mark it in the group Outlook or Gmail calendar so other people can’t steal it.
Give yourself at least 60 minutes to allow deep thinking and creativity.
Declutter your mind and your time
To help declutter your mind use fundamental productivity techniques such

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Carlow milk company Village Dairy flying off the shelf

From starting out doing the milk rounds, Noel Barcoe has since set up his own award winning milk and dairy company. Here he recounts his journey, along with his passion for all things milk.         
In 2015, following a decision to move away from mass-market milk, veteran milk distributor, Noel Barcoe along with the help of family and friends, established the Village Dairy, a Carlow-based micro-dairy, sourcing and processing milk from twelve hand-picked dairy farms. His drive and ambition has been to ‘make milk matter’ and to supply his now award-winning milk into local shops, restaurants, hotels and more recently to some of Ireland’s leading baristas.
Working in the milk and dairy industry was always something that I really enjoyed. In late 80’s I left school and started working on a milk round. In 1990 I started my own milk round and began distributing milk and dairy products on behalf of Avonmore. The business grew and then in 1999, along with my business partners, we decided to set up a business called Dairyland Cuisine. We were able to sell milk and dairy products under our own brand, which we then supplied to restaurants, shops and hotels – basically to anybody that needed milk. We sourced our branded milk products from dairy coops such as Donegal Creameries, Lakelands and Dairygold. Unfortunately, when the recession hit in 2008, trade was severely affected and the impact meant having to reinvent ourselves and our business. This all coincided around the time of the pork scare, when consumers were becoming more aware about where their food was coming from and what the product had to offer, from a taste and quality perspective.
It had always been at the back of my mind to set up a micro-dairy and source milk directly from local dairy farmers. Fortunately, we still

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The best executive cars on the market

Mark Gallivan takes a look at the best executive cars on the market in Ireland for 2019.

Depending on your view, the rise of the ubiquitous Crossover SUV and impacted demise of the executive car in the hearts and minds of Irish new car buyers is either one of two things; pretty depressing or simply a change in what consumers perceive as motorised status.

In the first two months of 2019, six of the top ten selling new cars in Ireland were Crossover SUVs. If you dig deeper into these very same statistics and combine Jeep and MPV sector cars, a total of 22,049 were sold against 6,512 saloon cars. It seems buyers now champion a taller driving position, better versatility, load capacity and quasi go-almost-anywhere capability while sacrificing any semblance of driving enjoyment and the consequential trade-off of a compromised cruising refinement.

Speaking of the executive car segment, which ones should you consider? As a segment, it is defined by the contenders like the BWW 3-Series, Audi A4 and the Mercedes C-Class. What is the real winner here and what are the quirks and gripes that you may not have heard in other car reviews?

First place: BMW 3-Series – from €43,120

If you’ve quietly held a suspicion that the BMW 3-Series has slipped a bit in recent years, you would be correct. Somehow the cars core DNA of best in class steering and chassis dynamics was often described as very good rather than outstanding. Enter the all-new G30, the seventh generation of BMW’s executive car and now with a guarantee that BMW has mended the less-focused dynamics and delivered electric steering communication that is amongst the best I’ve tested. The step up in cabin architecture, with a new digital dashboard, makes good strides in keeping up with Audi’s A4.

You’ll like: Best in class driving dynamics, an improved infotainment system, fabulous agility and rewarding dynamics. Cabin a proper advance in design.

You’ll grumble: Avoid run-flat tyres – they ruin the ride. New digital dash less easy to read than analogue dials. M Sport trim is best option for looks but adds a harsh ride.

Second Place: Mercedes C-Class – from €37,710 (Pictured in main image)

Isn’t this where we’d usually find the Audi A4? It was. It was after testing the facelifted C-Class Saloon, Estate and fabulous Cabriolet recently, did I shift my opinion. True, the C-Class interior and actual build quality trails the A4 in places and if we’re being honest, only matches it for driving engagement. But as an overall ownership proposition for middle management executives – those with a burning ambition to do better – the Mercedes C-Class in any of the variants is a beautifully crafted car.

Sporting an intriguing range of smaller four-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engines and 1.6 petrol/electric regenerative hybrids, along with the larger perennial larger engined diesel and petrol engines, the range is vast enough to suit all buyers. Where the Saloon version of the C-Class scored well is the rear-wheel drive bias and creamy smooth steering and suspension composure. Of all the cars tested in this segment, it’s the C-Class you’d drive after a long day and 300 kilometers to travel before reaching home. Everything in the C-Class is geared towards reducing stress and eliminating unnecessary fatigue. And this all-around package is not limited to the Saloon. You can also opt for the Estate, Coupe or Cabriolet version. It’s a close thing, but the C-Class pips the Audi A4 to the second place spot.

You’ll like: Classy and composed with junior S-Class styling. Surprisingly fun to drive. Lovely cabin. Smart 1.5-litre petrol engine a good bet for low mileage drivers.

You’ll grumble: Gearbox kick down is slow. Some interior fittings would shame a VW Golf. Pricey options.

Third Place: Audi A4 – from €35,930

Just because the Audi A4 was launched four years ago, it doesn’t mean it is now relegated to an also-ran. So much was right from the start with the fifth-generation (B9) Audi A4 that it still warrants serious consideration for your executive car choice in 2019. No other car in the executive segment is better constructed and feels like it could survive everyday business and family duties for years while remaining largely unscathed. The car’s only demerit is after four years, Audi needs to update the exterior look and cabin layout. Lastly, if you’re less than six foot tall, make sure you test one over a longer drive. The driver’s seating position is set low and can feel claustrophobic. Otherwise, you’ll be treated to car that is a massive step up from the previous generation A4 and is decently rewarding to drive.

You’ll like: Bank vault build quality. Brilliant to drive, with excellent ride and refinement. Still looks sharp after four years.

You’ll grumble: Engine’s momentary hesitation when accelerating a concern. Seating position set too low and proves claustrophobic. Cost of Audi’s options extortionate.

Fourth Place Lexus IS – from €41,480

A surprising fourth place is given to the Lexus IS for several reasons. Granted, it’s not down to the Japanese brand’s sales success during 2018. By shifting a total of just 484 cars and registering a paltry 110 Lexus IS models during 2018, it is the forgotten executive car choice. Indeed, as left-field choices go, the Lexus IS is a 2019 panacea for the executive that is still mourning the demise of SAAB in December 2011.

But choosing a Lexus is to enter an elevated world of customer care and bullet-proof reliability. After all, Lexus won the top spot in the UK’s Auto Express with a golden 95.12 per cent reliability rating. In Lexus land you tend to bypass any semblance of indifferent customer experience. If you want to waft in a car that is constructed with millimetric precision and enjoy a cabin with solid sporting looks, then the Lexus IS as an ownership proposition with guaranteed rarity in the German default car park.

You’ll like: Excellent reliability reputation. Genuine customer care. The 2017 update tweaked and honed the IS to within tiny tolerances. Immense and a brilliant left-field choice.

You’ll grumble: Infotainment system is fiddly to use. Hybrid never as seamless as suggested.

By Mark Gallivan

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Founder Friday hits Gorey this March

Founder Friday returns to The Hatch Lab on March 29th with Mark Kellett the special guest for the evening.
Founder Friday is a free monthly networking meet-up for founders, innovators and the wider business community over drinks and nibbles. The event is an opportunity to wrap up the week with networking and an inspiring fireside chat with an established entrepreneur from Leinster.
Who will be there?
The guest for the evening will be Mark Kellett, of Magnet Networks. Mark Kellett is an internationally recognised CEO with vast experience across technology, software, telecoms and media with firms such as Yahoo!, Network Appliance, Sun Microsystems and Aer Lingus globally. He is heavily involved with Enterprise Ireland and sits on their start-up advisory panel.
As CEO of Magnet Networks, Mark has grown his company from its Irish roots as a dedicated telecoms company into a developing global company that is fast becoming a leader in the connectivity IoT and Smart City solutions arena and now operates across five continents. Mark drives Magnet Networks’ challenger thinking, which has led to the brand being the trusted choice of some of the world’s biggest companies. Mark continues to push the boundaries of traditional telecoms thinking, and his achievements outside of the office include climbing Mount Everest and swimming the English Channel. Hatch Lab resident, Sarah Jane Vincent of Miss Content Creative, will be MC for the evening.
How to register
Founder Friday is run by Bank of Ireland in partnership with Wexford County Council, and will be hosted by Emer Cooney, community enterprise manager with Bank of Ireland as well as John O’Connor, The Hatch Lab manager.  To register for the event, visit the registration page here.
If you have any further queries, please contact John O’Connor at or Tina Coleman at

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A Tipperary farm where hens go out to graze

Kylie and Billy Magner produce pasture-raised eggs and pasture-raised chicken. Kylie provides some background to starting a poultry enterprise, and producing an award-winning chicken bone broth.

How did you start farming?
I grew up on a farm in Australia and Billy’s background has been in the equine industry in Ireland. In 2016, Billy and I took the decision to leave Australia, along with our four children, to return to Ireland to a small farm, that we previously purchased back in 2004. We started out with some sheep and cattle and hens, but we soon began to focus on the hens as an enterprise. Hens return cash on a weekly basis, which as you can imagine is not the case with cattle or sheep.
We began by selling eggs from the few hens that we had; and my son Finn, who was eight years of age at the time, was soon onboard with the enterprise. We kept the money in a jar and when we had enough money to buy more hens; we bought more hens and it just really all developed from there. In October 2017 we started in earnest, buying 150 commercial laying hens from James Ryan, a breeder from Cork. James gave us some great advice on infrastructure and how to manage the hens and we started off selling at farmer markets.
We didn’t have any experience in poultry management, so we possibly approached things slightly differently. We allowed our hens out on grass where they ‘creep graze’ like cattle or sheep, topping up on fresh vegetation and natural food from the soil during the day. Soon our eggs began getting really good reviews and lots of people began buying on a regular basis.
Last June we bought another 300 hens and again our markets continued to grow. We sell our eggs,

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Bank of Ireland celebrates International Women’s Day

Bank of Ireland celebrated International Women’s Day supporting gender diversity in the workplace conference in Limerick

Bank of Ireland celebrated International Women’s Day 2019 by supporting the 11th International Women’s Day Conference at the University of Limerick. The event shed light on the importance of gender diversity in the workplace and the significance of female representation at all levels of business.

The conference was chaired by Catherine Duff, general manager at Northern Trust and was addressed by inspirational female leaders including; Gillian Harford, county executive 30% Club Ireland, Professor Helen Kelly Holmes, dean faculty of arts, humanities and social sciences at UL and Vicky Phelan, cervical cancer activist.

Bank of Ireland is hosting a series of gender diversity seminars taking place nationwide as part of its campaign #BalanceForBetter. This campaign is highlighting the positive impact women have in the workplace and the value they add at all levels of a business.

Addressing the conference, Andrew Keating, group chief financial officer at Bank of Ireland said, “Bank of Ireland has developed the #BalanceForBetter campaign to encourage better awareness of gender diversity in the workplace and the importance of women being in senior leadership roles. We have heard from a number of inspirational female leaders here today and this conference, along with Bank of Ireland seminars rolling out nationwide, are demonstrating the importance for all businesses to work towards better gender balance at all levels within their organisation.”

“It’s a proven fact that the greater the diversity, the greater the innovation, and greater innovation leads to greater commercial success.”

By 2021, all appointments or promotions for senior grades in Bank of Ireland will be split 50:50, male and female. They group have already made great progress and are well on course to reach their target.

“Men, including myself, have long enjoyed the unfair advantage of achieving our ambitions, while many women couldn’t do so. It’s a proven fact that the greater the diversity, the greater the innovation, and greater innovation leads to greater commercial success,” added Keating.

In closing his keynote speech, he said, “I don’t want my son Darragh to have more opportunities than his sister Aisling based of his gender, and I don’t want Aisling to have more opportunities than Darragh, I just want equality and a better balance for all.”

Does better balance mean better business?

Gillian Harford, country executive of the 30% Club, gave a powerful talk on diversity in Ireland stating that while progress is being made, females are still massively underrepresented in leadership positions across all sectors in Ireland. “Ireland is one of the best countries in the world for equal education with 56% of undergrads being women, but we are not seeing this have an effect on leadership roles with just 18% of positions on boards being occupied by females.”

“I&D is not a numbers game, and it’s not about women winning and men losing, it’s about capitalising all talents. ”

She continued, “Diversity is not important unless you have inclusion. Diversity means I’m here, but inclusion means I’m heard.

“I&D is not a numbers game, and it’s not about women winning and men losing, it’s about capitalising all talents. Better balance means we give everyone an equal opportunity to thrive and break down barriers,” she finished.

Also discussing the topic with an onus on vulnerability, Mary T. Tierney, from Azurite Consulting Ltd, discussed why creativity and innovation is what make businesses thrive, and why we need an equal balance in order to thrive.

She also talked about how people feel ashamed about their vulnerabilities and “run as far away as possible” from them.

“Vulnerability is not a weakness. It’s our most accurate method for courage – in fact it’s our only pathway to courage. We need to start having the correct conversations without worrying about possible implications or opinions. Embracing vulnerability is a minute-by-minute choice as it happens every single day,” said Tierney.

Powerful women and leadership

Professor Helen Kelly Holmes, dean of the faculty of arts, humanities and social sciences at the University of Limerick said women are really starting to be heard, drawing on the Repeal referendum last year, which “gave a great insight into the power women have in Ireland”. Historically, to be a powerful woman was to act like a man when in a position of power, according to Holmes, but this has now changed.

“Having women in positions of leadership isn’t about having a woman ruling over everyone else. It’s about having women in positions where they have a voice and can effect change,” before discussing her own industry, saying, “A lot of statistics show that universities are problematic institutions for women. They are incredibly slow to change and are very conservative institutions.”

“Women will only apply for senior positions when they believe they meet 100% of the criteria in a job description – whereas men are likely to apply if they only meet 50% of the criteria.”

Dr Christine Cross, head of department, work and employment studies at UL echoed Holmes’ thoughts and spoke about ‘gendered language’ and the role it plays in recruitment.

“There are a number of words that are considered ‘gendered language’ so we need to be cognisant of this when writing job descriptions so that we are encouraging more females to apply for roles and take risks.

“Women will only apply for senior positions when they believe they meet 100% of the criteria in a job description – whereas men are likely to apply if they only meet 50% of the criteria.

“Visibility is six times more important than your performance to move up the ladder into senior positions. Women need to be putting themselves out there more,” she concluded.

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