The 2016 ITLUS Summer Field meeting took place in East Wicklow where we met in Tinakilly House Hotel for breakfast and lunch.
Our first visit of the day was to Wicklow Rapeseed Oil Ltd, an enterprise setup and run by Keith Symes, Keith has engineering qualifactions and experience and decided to put them to use when he came back to the family farm, having seen a farm based oilseed rape crushing and bottling operation UK Keith wondered would it be possible to add value to some farm grown produce in this way.
After much research Keith decided that oil from a particular spring variety best suited his likely customers and that the best way to guarantee consistent quality was to gear up to crush and bottle the rape on his own farm, currently while some of the rape used is grown by neighbouring farmers on contract all the drying, storage and crushing is done on the farm.
The company was launched in 2013 and is currently crushing about 100 tons per year.
Our next visit was to O Hanlon Herbs in Glenealy, O Hanlon herbs was established in 1988 and has grown substantially since, it’s primary business is the supply of fresh herbs in pots to all the major supermarkets in the country. All the retailers require consistency of supply and quality through the year so O Hanlon’s have a sophisticated production system to guarantee this but also to ensure biosecurity in what is a live food supplied directly to customers.
As all the herbs are grown under glass heating and energy use are a big cost to the enterprise, ITLUS members saw a 720KW biomass boiler which is currently supplying most of the energy requirements of the operation, this boiler is supplied and maintained by Clearpower and depending on the time of year uses 2 or 3 loads of virgin woodchip per week.
We followed the life cycle of a pot of herb from the filling of the pot with compost, the seeding, watering, germination rooms and the transfer of the pots to large trays and their movement through the glasshouse at various stages of growth before they were packed for transport to the end user
At lunch in Tinakilly House members were given a talk by a local historian on the general area and the importance of agriculture in Wicklow through the ages.
After lunch the group moved south to the farm of Sylvester Bourke near Arklow, after a general introduction to the farm and it’s operations we moved to view some Teagasc trials in Spring Barley which Sylvester’s brother Martin and Mark Plunkett are running looking at using poultry litter at various application rates and methods of application, either ploughed in or applied to the ploughed surface and tilled in, in combination with various rates of either Urea or CAN.
This was a very comprehensive trial with a large number of different replications and all the poultry litter and chemical fertiliser had had to be applied by hand, either before ploughing or cultivations. The trial had been sown on March 31st, just before period of heavy rain, conditions were different to those the previous year when a smaller trial had been carried out and according to Martin this had led to a difference in the appearance of the various treatments, the previous year poultry litter applied post ploughing led to the best looking plots, though this did not carry through to yield, in 2016 the plots with ploughed in poultry litter were looking best, but of course the combine would eventually tell the tale.
Before we left the Bourke farm, members had a BBQ and some time for a chat before the journey home.