Variety is the Spice in Mag Kirwin’s Life!

A day in the life of Mag Kirwin

A Day In The Life of Mag Kirwin, Goatsbridge Trout Farm


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:

1. Yield

2. Giveaway

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!

Que Sera Sera

What will be will be

What Will Be Will Be


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…


Blessed with an Interesting Life Fish Farming

Fish Farming in Europe

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.

Polish Modern fish farm

Fish Farming in the Sea

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 .

John Murphy photograph

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.





Fish Farming Frustration!!!



Fish Farming Frustration

Frustration is about expecting the world and its inhabitants to be, act or react as you wish.

My frustration is very real. In fact I am sure I cannot be alone. I certainly felt that frustration today when I spoke to a department official yet again asking him to explain the latest delay in movement on our Aquaculture licence application. Frustration is an understatement as he spoke for 10 minutes giving away absolutely nothing and making me none the wiser.

The general public have absolutely no idea what is going on within the Aquaculture industry. I believe there are approximately 600 Aquaculture licences pending. We have been waiting for over two years for our existing Aquaculture licence to be issued and I can tell you the aquaculture licensing system does not square with the phrase “the best little country to do business in” as any sensible investor would be forgiven for turning their back on this bureaucratic nightmare. The story is the same the county over.

Fish and shellfish farmers are frustrated to the point of abandoning a sector with obvious potential that is being strangled by public service inertia. Unfortunately we are dealing with is a lack of decisive action and hands-on management of the licensing problem. Simon Coveney take note. I will not lay off.

I have a responsibility to my 88 year old Father in law who started this business 54 years ago. I have a responsibility to my four young children and to the future of Goatsbridge Trout Farm.

We, like many other companies, cannot access funding to reinvest in our little fish farm here in Kilkenny and we have already postponed our new development on two occasions in the last two years. We cannot do this without a current licence in place.

In reality, I have learned that in Ireland things are as they are, so no amount of ranting and steaming is going to change that.

But I do feel a little better now and tomorrow is another day!





“It’s far from caviar you were reared“


Real Views: Sunday Business post – Mag Kirwin, Goatsbridge Trout Farm

Sunday Business Post article 08/09/2013

Begrudgery and negativity is an attitude often described “the Irish disease”.  It is in fact a social phenomenon, known as Tall Poppy Syndrome. We are surrounded in this economic climate with a lot of pain and negativity and as a business owner I really think this will have to change if we are to get out of the situation we find ourselves in.

“It’s far from caviar you were reared“

The day Goatsbridge Trout Farm launched Ireland’s first Trout Caviar my mother, a successful and experienced business woman herself, rang to wish me well and congratulate me on an RTE News appearance. Her first words were: “It’s far from caviar you were reared“. I laughed heartily at her comment, but understood it was in fact her way of telling me how proud she was.

God only know it is far from Caviar I was reared but my mother showed me that anything is possible. She was eight months pregnant with her 10th child when my father died suddenly of a heart attacked aged 45. Less than two years later my ten-year-old brother died unexpectedly.

My mother had every excuse in the world to sit back and feel sorry for herself.  But she was inspirational, going on to rear us all and build a very successful international horse sales business in Kilkenny,  Goresbridge Horse Sales, with my brother Martin.  She instilled in us a sense of belief and showed me and my siblings that with positive actions and attitude anything is possible.

Do Well But Not Too Well?

Every day we hear of companies going into liquidation. Do we wish others to do well but not too well in case their success might reflect our own comparable lack of success? Deep down it helps shift the attention of our own weakness to the misfortune of others.  In many cases it is a domino effect and something beyond the control of the company in question. The true measure of success is how many times you can bounce back from failure.

Remember a defeat is not bitter unless you swallow it.

The world is full of a lot of fear and a lot of negativity, and a lot of judgment. I just think people need to start shifting into positivity and happiness. As corny as it sounds, we need to make this change.


There can be life after a business failure. I am thinking about Bill Cullen whose empire collapsed quite publically and dramatically last year. Unlike the media I am more in awe of him now as he continues spreading his views on positivity and the message that we can bounce back after failure. I told Sarah Newman after things went drastically wrong for her business last year, that I look forward to seeing her next success and I certainly believe I will.

What about the fascinating story of Paul Diver who purchased The Sandhouse Hotel in Rownowllagh Co Donegal in March 2012 for a tenth of its asking price. He got the staff of the hotel to invest in the venture. They had a great summer. This is a perfect example of how a business can bounce back from the brink – and in the doing so Paul secured 50 Irish jobs. A well-deserved Down To Business person of the month award which he received last Saturday. Yet again another example that anything is possible.

Building something of lasting value – be it business or personal – does take some pain and disappointments. Most of us at some point along our journey will stumble and fall. But the rewards and successes always outweigh and overshadow the bad times.

Positive Thoughts

Have I ever had negative thoughts and considered giving up on fish farming? How do you think I feel when my customers choose French and Spanish trout over Goatsbridge Trout  because the cost of production is higher here in Ireland? How do you think I feel when I see a pond of fish under pressure in high temperatures, low oxygen or flood waters where you are at the mercy of the Gods? I stop and remind myself that  if fish farming was  easy everyone would be producing trout so I count my lucky stars , take the good with the bad and get on with .

Embrace Positivity

So let’s embrace positivity, because positivity will breed success especially in business. I like to surround myself with positive and happy people. I think positivity as well as negativity is contagious. My sister Miriam Donohoe from MD Media introduced a hashtag on twitter called #positiveireland which has done a lot to spread positive news on social media. Others are also doing great work in this space.  Samantha Kelly is another person who is spread good news digitally. She started the #irishbizparty hashtag with weekly “tweet” meetings for emerging business people.

Why not go online today and help spread the message of positivity so we can talk ourselves out of this recession. Or why not come to The National Woman’s Conference in Portlaoise on October 16th and 17th where I have being asked by my local Enterprise Board to speak? I promise you’ll find it full of #positiveireland like-minded female entrepreneurs.

Mahatma Gandhi once said:

“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behaviour. Keep your behaviour positive because your behaviour becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”

Let’s hope that our destiny is success and happiness in our businesses and our personal lives.

European Seafood Expo in Brussels

European Seafood Expo in Brussels

Goatsbridge Trout Farm Take The First Steps

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”  Martin Luther King, Jr

Goatsbridge Trout Farm took its first step towards the export market last week when we participated at the European Seafood Expo in Brussels over  the course of three days . What a positive experience and certainly the right move.

Bord Bia did an amazing job as usual and we were absolutely bowled over by the response from the customers for our products and display.

Lessons learned:

What customers want:

  1. Quality products. Irish products are the best in the world. Please believe it.
  2. Sustainability as opposed to standards.
  3. A Story: everyone has a story so it is important to communicate it effectively.

WE have a book full of contacts. Now all we have to do is turn a few into customers.

Wish us luck.


Thomastown Town Of Food

town of food

‘What kind of Muppets are those guys sitting in the middle of a river having a picnic?!???’

I overheard a couple of ladies having a conversation at a conference in Kildare a few weeks ago. I leaned over a grabbed the newspaper to realise I was in fact one of those crazy people. We will do anything to get notice here in Kilkenny and the news was spreading fast. Thomastown had been selected to be the food hub for kilkenny and had secured up to €775,000 worth of funding from Kilkenny Leader partnership to make that a reality.

Read More

Winners of Irish Times Innovation Award for Food/Ag 2013

intertrade photo mag and ger Goatsbridge


Goatsbridge Trout Farm Win The Irish Times Innovation Award for Food/Agriculture 2013

It has been a long time since I posted a blog but now is as good a time as any to get back into it.

Goatsbridge Trout Farm were crowned Ireland’s Most Innovative Food Company last weekend in Belfast at the Irish Times Awards, where we beat off some of the best companies in the land like Glenisk and Mash Direct. If we do not maximise on this win it will just be an ego boost and we have not got time for ego here with so much work ahead.

Good news for Goatsbridge as we embark on our journey in the export market. We are taking a stand at the Brussels International Seafood trade show for the first time so wish us luck.

Onwards and upwards!