In this radio interview Ger talks about the history of Goatsbridge, farming trout, fish processing and of course the end products – paté, caviar, smoked trout and fresh fish
In this radio interview Ger talks about the history of Goatsbridge, farming trout, fish processing and of course the end products – paté, caviar, smoked trout and fresh fish
Strategy is a word I have been using constantly over the last few years. It all began one day in Dublin at a Bord Bia workshop when we gathered to explore the strategic thinking of several food companies from across the country. While we had no documented strategic plan in place at the time, I was astounded at the number of large companies who seemed to have no idea of where they wanted to go. I decided there and then to put a plan in place.
Our new found strategy is now a high-level plan which is helping us to achieve our goals under conditions of uncertainty, and boy do we have many uncertainties in the business of fish farming! After the summer we have just experienced no one could have predicted the high temperatures over such a prolonged period of time. On a positive note no one could have predicted the huge surge in demand for our fresh fish in Ireland and across the globe. This demand is something we see going from strength to strength.
Goatsbridge Trout Farm is at a very critical stage in its life and we are aware companies that grow for the sake of growth, or that expand into areas outside their core business strategy, often stumble. On the other hand, companies that build scale for the benefit of their customers more often succeed over time.
I feel the most important thing is to build a compelling vision, a comprehensive strategy for achieving that vision, and then a relentless implementation plan. The biggest strategic risk that is guaranteed to fail is not taking any risk.
So, what is the plan?
Goatsbridge Trout Farm have worked relentlessly over the last number of years building a very strong recognisable brand and reputation. We have developed a range of high-quality products that have won many awards. We have tested the Irish market to build growth, working with all the major retailers in Ireland, including the two largest so-called discounters.
The reality in Ireland is the prize is small in terms of market share because of the small population of fish eaters. On top of this we have discovered that the cost to service the Irish people, in a market that has too many shops per capita, is extremely high. As a result, we will allow the sale of retail products to grow organically in this country, minimising the financial support to grow this market.
I am therefore happy to announce we will take the risk and launch into Sainsbury’s, the 2nd largest chain of supermarkets in the UK, on 14th of November to test this high-volume market for our added value trout range. Time will tell whether we have a place in mainstream retail at all and we will make the brave decision to pull out if this is the case.
We now look towards our newly acquired production sites and investigate the many possibilities to grow production in a sustainable manner, having identified a world screaming for high quality fish.
One such project is taking place in Mount Lucas, the biggest wind farm site in Ireland owned by Bord Na Mona.
Goatsbridge Trout Farm believe this is a truly sustainable and innovative method of fish farming modelling itself on the production of Catfish in The States. We hope to grow Duckweed to act as a natural biological biofilter, use air to move water around the pill ponds, and run these airlifts using energy taken from the nearby wind turbine. How cool is that!
Will it work? In the words of Samuel Beckett:
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Watch this space!
Ciara Lawlor was suddenly taken from this world on 9th July this year. The daughter of a good friend and a family we spent many happy days together with when the kids were young. To say it absolutely knocked me for ten is an understatement. It was sudden and certainly not expected after her heart operation a few years ago for a minor heart issue, which was not expected to be life threatening.
What is life all about I ask myself? Will they stand over our graves and say how hard we worked? Will they say how much money we made? In Ciara’s case they stood at her grave and talked about a light having gone out in the world. People gravitated towards her and she always, and I mean always had a radiating bright smile on her face and a word for everyone.
As we plough on with life, with the business of making money and achieving greatness we should make sure this success is not an empty victory. The best piece of advice a good friend of mine got form a very old lady was to do small acts of kindness daily in order to get him to the place he needed to get to. He took this advice on board and is now reaping the rewards and continues to do kind deeds.
Blaise Bronson talks about our legacy in his latest book “I Dare You”. He quotes Baden Powell:
“Leave this place a little better than you found it”
It is with this in mind I remind readers of an opportunity to live this message! Do not forget the new book “Fishwives” with will be launched in October at The Savour Kilkenny Food Festival. All proceeds go the incredible Hospice Africa Charity that you can read about in my last blog.
Let us never forget the short life of Ciara Lawlor and take example from it. She certainly left this world a better place.
#Tastekilkenny made its first appearance last week at the Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska, Co Laois.
We are a group of food producers from kilkenny working with SuperValu on its food academy program. Food Academy works with and nurtures small businesses through their journey from start up to getting their products on the shelves of SuperValu.
You see Kilkenny is not only the home of good hurling but also the home of good food!
What a week and what a collection of food and producers.
Gerard and Gabrielle have a passion and a vision to build a business piggy backing on the long standing success of Smithwicks in the heart of Kilkenny city. They have plans to build the first artesan brewery in Kilkenny not far from the city centre giving them a place to tell their story and extend their offering to the masses. We certainly enjoyed a few Costello’s after the long week on Friday night.
The Devils Menu is run by husband and wife team John and Elora Whelan. Marshmallows made to perfection and beautifully packaged I know this innovative product will be a success but perhaps not reaching their target at The Ploughing Champsionships. Make sure to drop by and purchase some at the craft fair in the RDS this year. I would like the caramel flavour!
Next up is the very formidable Helen Murphy and her delicious Beetroot Chutney and Relish. I was delighted to be placed beside her because our products completely complicated each other and we were able to up sell as a result. Helen is such a pro and it was obvious to me for the beginning she would do well with her quaint persuasive manner and rye sense of humour. Not sure I found her jokes as funny after 1000 times hearing it by day 3!!!
Across the way were the former banker and baker supreme Bernie who mothered every man in sight while subtly selling them her amazing and very intoxicating sherry trifle. Unlike The Devils Menu Bernie had the full attention of every middle aged farmer and nostalgic housewife remembering the very traditional desert at a time when marshmallows were not even heard of.
Bernie wished all her customers the blessing of God and thanked each and every one of them for their business.
A well-established company new to the retail sector and their new zip seal bags of flour mixes went down a storm especially when the bread was tasted with our delicious smoked trout pate . Another food collaboration and cooperative selling opportunity. Rob will be the wiser on his next outing to make the bread from his flour and flog it to the passing trade as his bags were a little too heavy to carry around those mucky roadways back to the car . As we both agreed PR is great but you still have to pay the bill and it is important to maximise the experience for the customer to help ingrain our product offering in the brain forever.
One of the most creative people I know is Anneliese from The Inistioge Food Company, a company she runs with her husband Denis. It was her creative genius that helped construct the incredible stand using nothing but vision and old pallets. All you have to do is examine her beautiful standout packaging and you know for sure the product must taste as good as it looks. But what was really clever is the fact that we can now use this over and over again so you can expect to see us pop up anywhere in the world. Have stand, will travel!
Tucked in the corner were the very classy couple from Highbank, a company that had achieved all the awards possible in the business. They tasted their new apple brandy and gin but only to those serious about a purchase. Funny how experience pays off and there is no trick in the book Rod does not know about. Now that I think about it I never got a taste all week.
So’long to the farmers and a big thank you to Fiona Deegan and all at our local Enterprise Board for all their support.
And watch out for us in every food academy shelf space throughout the country. And if you are lucky enough to meet the lovey Bernie make sure she gives you that special blessing because you know what I think, it just might be real.
Turning 50 and speechless.
I have heard it all.
Today is the oldest you have ever been and the youngest you will ever be again!
Age is an issue of mind over matter and if you don’t mind it doesn’t matter!
It’s not the years in your life that matter but the life in the years.
It has finally happened and I was left speechless the other night as I walk into a room full of friends for my surprise 50th birthday party. I think that was first time in my 50 years on this planet that I was left speechless.
I scanned the room and saw my four sisters remembering all the good time we had growing up in the sunny south East. I remember the memories and support only sister can give and thank my lucky stars for my family. I see some of my oldest friends that I went to primary school with, then on to secondary school and finally college. We laughed at my sister Louise who took her usual turn cooking Sunday dinner in that grotty flat in Dublin and forgot to remove the innards of the chicken. It nearly killed us but not as deadly as the home brew we made to wash it down. As I walked around the table my life flashed before me. I see my new friends who have become part and parcel of my everyday life here in Thomastown. I see my neighbour who would go to the ends of the earth to help in time of need. I see my latest neighbour who moved in a year ago and finally called round last week to say hello. There she was for the evening getting a crash course on the life and times of Mag Kirwan.
I look back on it today on the eve of my 50th. The girls were premature last Friday but I did not want to burst their bubble. I feel like a young person in an ever aging body. Unfortunately age is like an airplane flying through a storm. Once you are aboard there is nothing you can do. As long as I can keep old age in my minds and prevent it form creeping down my body I will survive.
Thanks to all my friends for a wonderful evening.
Now here’s to another great 50 years !
Good things come to those who wait or to those who work their asses off and never give up! Discuss!
Board Bia Marketplace 2015 took place this week where 400 potential customers, including 300 pre-screened international buyers came to meet with Irish food and drink producer’s intent on doing business. Key decision makers from Ireland, the UK, Europe and International markets attended the event with the hope of writing new business. Goatsbridge had personally requested the presence of a number of potential customers we had meet over the past number of years while travelling abroad.
After 22 meetings and at approximately 5.35 pm in the Convention Centre an exhausted German arrived at our booth for his last and final meeting. We were also talked out of it after a very intensive day of negotiation. Otto just wanted to talk about our Smoked tinned trout having heard lots of positive things about Goatsbridge as he toured the country in the lead up to the event. He tasted the product and looked in our direction and said it was his last meeting but his most inspiring one . It was “incredible” he said. A little flattery will support a man through great fatigue.
Great way to end the day. Good things come to those who wait?
Time will tell!
We in Goatsbridge are blessed to have the opportunity to experience the world through food .
In January this year we went to India with a group of like-minded food producers to experience all that India has to offer . These are my thoughts day three.
A comfortable journey on the brand new Expressway by taxi brought us to a moment I remember very little of 25 years ago. I travelled around the world and was heading back to Ireland to see my family and my now husband of 24 years. This time it was different and I shared that first glimpse of The Taj Mahal with my husband Ger and The Bord Bia inspiration team. Unfortunately the winter weather conditions brought with it fog which never really dissipated throughout the day but did not dampen our spirits.
Nestled in the heart of Agra it is in contrast to a city that is surprisingly as poor as Delhi itself. It felt like an assault on all senses. A city devoid of industry as the government is making every attempt to protect its prized monument which is one of the 7 wonders of the world. This temple built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal and was completed in 1653 at the cost of 220 million rupees! It is a white Marble mausoleum and is 171 metres (561 ft.) high.
It is not only a symbol of love but also a symbol of possibility.
George Eliot once said the world is full of hopeful analogies and handsome, dubious eggs, called possibilities and remember the only limits to the possibilities in your life tomorrow are the buts you use today.
Indian cuisine is historically global so we head to Dasaprakash in downtown Agra for lunch to sample some South Indian food. As we make our way through the narrow streets lined with dirt and squalor we notice a community where everyone seems to have a role. A man may have a job holding a rope tied to a lawn mower being pulled by another man, his business partner! Two hands are better that one. I see a man painting the local road signs with a tiny paint brush where thousands are waiting along the road in expectations to be brought back to life. Will it be complete in time for The Obama State Visit next week to celebrate India day.
I ask myself are these people happy. I imagine my life here and cannot help thinking that these people are in fact rich. Rich with things that money cannot buy because they certainly have none of that. These people are very proud of their nationality. Remember Indian economic Liberalisation is only 60 years old and with such a short time under their belts to get this county back on its feet what can you expect. The federal system of governance seems to be the only way forward and is working well in the USA. All they need is time. Some day they will be a superpower just like China as long as they can contol the corruption. Just watch this space and watch out Britain!
We arrive at our lunch destination and get another informative talk about what we are about to consume. Orio explains the multifaceted food culture and melting pot that is Indian cuisine and how south India cuisine is a much different taste and texture that the food we had being exposed to from the north. The food is less stodgy, fresher and more flavoursome. Like the entire country Indian food is very much linked to its religion. In fact they go hand in hand and South Indians are primarily vegetarian.
We samples many dishes and tried A Thali for the first time. It is basically a food format or vessel that can constitute an entire meal that represents many flavours and textures of the region. Not sure the boys were entirely satisfied without their quota of meat!
We moved on to see the Marble skills of the craftsmen who build the Taj as it is called locally. Tom from Bord Bia gave it a go and was a dab hand in fairness .
Having listened and watch the demonstration of how each piece was carved out painstakingly by hand I understand why it took so long. However I was less that impressed with the fact that the people in the shop tried to part us with our money having ushered us into a room full of some incredible pieces They eventually decided we were not going to purchase in that room and miraculously opened a false door to reveal another room with a less prized pieces to purchase. Do they not understand that The Irish are a genuine people and we did not appreciate this blatant intimidation? Needless to say we did not purchase.
While we were there we did get to try the Tea from the Kullad .
It is basically a handle-free terracotta cup who is an Eco-friendly terracotta utensil, one of the oldest inventions of ancient India. And is a loving artefact of ancient times. I noticed the tea mingles gently with the terracotta giving it a complexity of fragrance and taste, similarity like whiskey draws it its flavours from sherry caskets
We leave to Town after another day of intrigue. It was the little moments seeing a number of monkeys reputed to be carrying aids on the rooftop of the local temple that I remember. Also remember the father and man of the house bringing his entire family by bike to the market with his wife, his 2 sons, his daughter and baby girls plus the family dog. Funny enough no one is hungry here least of all the many dogs you see wondering the streets and motorways day and night.
Back in Delhi we go to the hipster part of town. We have no problem indulging in the luxuries the rich of Delhi have on offer. It seems this divide between rich and poor is very much accepted. They has a sense of fate based again in religion, you we either fated to be rich or fated to be poor and such is life.
And so our journey continues.
They say love what you do and you will never work a day in your life. Well I never work. Never ever.
They also say that variety is the spice of life and I am certain my life is full of spice!
Take today for example:
8 am: I set the kids off on the bus at 8.50 making sure Pauric has his jumper on; Orlaith has eaten her breakfast having checked herself in the mirror about 10 times to make sure she was still perfect and Aine has her gear bag and knows which one of her many activities is taking place today after school . It is always a hectic few minutes.
9 am: I then head off to Graiguenamanagh to pick up the student who is coming to Goatsbridge Trout Farm to work for a few weeks. What a lovely young man, full of enthusiasm as he talks about his regret not studying for his leaving certificate a few years before. He talks about his interest in business and believes it can be a very important tool for life as well as the foundation for a good job. I am impressed already.
I drop him back to the office and give him two jobs. Firstly to look for software for timetable scheduling for The Town Of Food project and secondly to look up as many cookery courses in the UK to add to our many ideas for the project which will be under way early next year . That will keep him busy for the day and it will also give me a chance to test his ability to work independently.
10.30 am: I head to Piltown to meet my web designer Ger Foster from Box Creative. He spends the next couple of hours showing me how to edit our new WordPress website, how to resize and crop photographs, to edit text and how useful keywords are for maximising the search engine. As I drive away I cannot wait to get back to the office to make all the changes necessary to satisfy my desire to showcase our business to the best of our ability.
2.15 pm: I arrive home just in time to meet Liam who has come to reprogram our print labelling scales with our new EAT TROUT labels. I haven’t eaten yet but that will have to wait. I decide to shadow Liam as I really need to understand how this program works. Nothing worse than ignorance when it comes to something as simple as labelling a product when everyone else has gone home.
3.20 pm: Time for lunch. Ella has cooked my favourite! Trout of course. Honestly I have not had a trout for months. Ella is a Godsend and the kids adore her. She is dating our farm manager so God forbid they fall out of love as I could not bear to loose either of them.
3.40 pm: I want to review the week’s factory costings with our supervisor Liam. We map 3 KPIs each day:
3. Cost / kg for labour.
We have to get this right as we make decisions based on these figures as we drive on with our new contract for Perch in Switzerland, where Irish perch commands the highest price on the fresh fish counter. A good yield can make a difference between profit and loss especially when dealing with fillets as small as 10 Gms. It is very easy to be a busy fool.
4.50 pm: I review the contracts for the new operatives in the factory before they head home. Cannot say I love HR but it is an important part of my responsibility.
5.30 pm: I sneak up for my daily walk in Mount Juliet. It’s my Valium and always a good time to catch up on phone calls. I decide to ring Francis Nesbitt to catch up on a fantastic event we are organising for the Kilkenny Savour Food Festival called A Night of 1000 Feasts. We are hoping every household in Kilkenny will host a Feast on 26th October as a Fundraiser for The Town of Food project. Always hard to get people to commit to do anything and at this stage in my life I feel you can take the horse to water but you cannot make him drink it .
6.40 pm: I arrive back in the office in time to see my husband take the four kids off in the car to the Greyhounds in Waterford where we have a dog running. Funny that but I thought our last greyhound was sold last year ! Ned informed me that Daddy’s greyhound buddy had a new litter of pups a year earlier and they has decided they were going to give me a surprise and produce a Derby winner. Oh I wish I was a greyhound all the loving and rubbing I would get.
At least I had the place to myself and into the office I went to update our new website and and contemplate yet another crazy but fulfilling day.
A Day in the Life!
In twenty years from now I do not want to be sorry for the things I did not do. This is why I suggest we all throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbours. Catch the trade winds in our sails, explore, dream, discover.
We have had a couple of disappointments in the last few weeks. Nothing life threatening but disappointing nevertheless.
My 11 year old daughter fell at the start of the All Ireland 600 metre race final in Tullamore and unfortunately she broke her arm. She had qualified as one of the fastest and was expected by her coaches to do very well . What turned out to be a disaster turned out to be a blessing in the end. Susan, the girl responsible for tripping her, came to the hospital bringing food and drinks as we waited for the results of the X-rays. In the end she came home to Kilkenny with us to stay for a few days and ended up staying for 10 days. Aine has now made a friend for life and is back training for next year .
Just last week I failed to deliver a project I had my heart set on. As I tried to make my case I realised you should never have to force anything that is truly meant to be .In the end everything will be okay, if it is not okay, it’s not the end.
Always fight until you cannot anymore, and then be fought for. And remember what is meant to be will always find a way.
Que Sera Sera…
The most important thing is to live an interesting life. Keep your eyes, ears and heart open. Talk to people and visit interesting places, and don’t forget to ask questions. I think Aquaculture has afforded me that much more than any other job I could have considered doing in my life.
Last week I visited a new fish farm in Poland not far from Gdansk. Lots to see and plenty of questions. No matter what people think about these new recirculation fish farms the reality is they will be the future if we are to feed the ever growing population. However, we will resist this for as long as possible and hopefully find a way to continue using a flow through system and adhere to the new EU regulations coming down the line. Below is a picture of Ger contemplating life as a fish farmer in Poland.
Although I have read extensively about Sea Farming I never managed to go out to see one first hand. I have to say I wonder to myself what all the fuss is about as I drive through Bantry Town to be met with signs objecting to the sea cages in the bay.
I was greeted by my good friend John Murphy who took me on a tour of his amazing Research Centre. As a former Scientist I was in my element but what impressed me most was the commerciality of the work they are carrying out. If just one of these projects proves commercial they will have achieved their goal. They are extracting oil form Seaweeds, growing Sea Urchins which command a very good price in Japan; they are testing Wrasse Fish on Sea Lice which could prove to be a very natural way to rid the salmon of these awful creatures. I could not believe my eyes when they produced some Sea Cucumbers which are most definitely a delicacy somewhere other than Ireland!
That evening we were treated to a fantastic meal in John’s restaurant of Crocodile, Camel and so much amazing delicacies. I have to pinch myself to remind me I was still in Bantry .
The following day we headed out with my nine year old son Pauric to see the lads feed the remaining fish that did not manage to escape along with the other 200 tons or so in February. What a disaster for this business. No matter what people think about fish farming I think nobody could possible wish this to happen. This man along with his very clever business partner Dave O Neil employ almost 60 people.
Heading back to Kilkenny my son informed me he might after all become a fish farmer.
Unfortunately John Murphy will not be encouraging any of his family to get involved in Aquaculture after the horrendous time he has experienced over the past few months. They are broken men! As I said to John, life is indeed interesting… In the end, some of your greatest pains, become your greatest strengths.
So hang in there John.