The Hennessy brothers have a new way to feed herds with supplements, writes Trish Dromey.
National Enterprise Award winner Terra Liquid Minerals (TLM) aims to disrupt the global farm animal food supplement industry with cutting edge technology which allows dairy herds to receive the supplements they need from the water they drink.
Company chief executive and co-founder Pádraig Hennessy says the liquid supplementation delivery system developed by his company has an absorbency rate of over 90%, which represents a significant advancement on the 30% to 40% rate achieved by traditional dry supplement method which is currently the global benchmark.
Launched in 2013, the TLM system is now being used on 260 farms in Ireland to provide mineral and magnesium supplementation to over 50,000 cows .
The company had a €1.1m turnover in 2017 and is gearing up for an international launch at the end of the year.
Mr Hennessy and his brother Tom were running Terra Systems, which provides water systems to farms in 2012, when they saw a cow die from lack of magnesium.
They set out to establish a separate company to develop an improved method of providing supplements.
Noting that liquid supplementation was already recognised as a more effective method than dry supplementation, he says, however, liquid supplementation was not used because there was no way to guarantee accurate daily dosage because the livestock’s water consumption varies with the weather.
“We saw an opportunity to use technology to automate delivery and researched different technologies, merging a number of them to create a new one. We developed a controller which monitors the water consumption of a herd and adjusts the concentrations of the minerals accordingly,” he says.
Working from a converted kitchen at the family farm near Athy, the brothers started by targeting the farms that were already using their water systems.
Mr Hennessy says it was an uphill task at the start because the TLM solution was radically different.
“But we started getting referrals from existing customers and now have a 99% customer retention rate. Sales have ramped up in the last 18 months,” he says.
Supported by Kildare Local Enterprise Office, TLM has expanded its operations last year and built a 400 sq metre facility to manufacture minerals.
“We are now building a larger office and expect to increase the staff number from nine to 16 by 2019,” says Mr Hennessy, explaining that the company has a two year plan involving a €2m investment which it will fund through loans, reinvestment and new equity.
TLM operates by leasing its technology to farmers and also by providing a monitoring service.
Monitoring currently involves the company visiting farms but it is working on a more advanced system which will carry out remote monitoring.
“When we release a new automated controller in the autumn we will launch on export markets, selling through distributors, says Mr Hennessy, adding that the company has already had enquiries from the US Pakistan, Australia, and France.
It is continuing research and development and is now testing a new mobile mineral dispensing unit which has been designed for use at farms which have fragmented herds.
Plans for 2018 include expanding its manufacturing facility, doing more research and development, and starting an aggressive international marketing campaign.
Mr Hennessey believes that the benefits offered by the TLM technology will allow it to disrupt existing animal supplementation markets.
Aiming to increase turnover to €2 .5m this year, the company expects to export to five countries within 18 months.
“Our goal is to become the world leader in the automated dispensing of animal liquid supplements,’’ says Mr Hennessy.
The company received a major boost last month when it won the overall National Enterprise Award.
It also won Google’s Irish Adopt a Start up programme, securing a €10,000 Adwords credit and $100,000 (€85,750) in Google Cloud Credits.