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
We launched in Sainsbury’s last week after a year of hard work putting all the processes in place. Now that we have made it to the shelves with four of our amazing products, we must sit and wait and see what Brexit brings. Let’s see how the UK public react to our Eat Trout product range.
Donald Trump said, “You have to think anyway, so why not think big?” And now Goatsbridge is a small company thinking big. For the record that is about the only inspiring thing I have head Donald Trump utter!!!
We met with the buyers almost 10 months ago for the first time and that meeting went very well indeed. A big thanks to Purple Basil and its founder Joanna Walker who worked with our team to make this happen. As a former buyer in some of the biggest retailers in the UK, Joanna believed in us from the beginning. Sainsbury’s loved our products, our branding (thanks to Slater Design) and they loved The Kirwans which is always a help. People do business with people and I must say I have found the personnel in Sainsbury’s to be nothing short of supportive.
I believe destiny isn’t a matter of chance, but a matter of choice. Have we made the right choice? Who knows! We will never find out how far we can go if we don’t take risks? If we win, we will be happy and if we lose, we will be wise. I’ll take either.
photo credit: Sainsbury’s Supermakets
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!
I simply don’t want to pinch myself in case I wake up from this happy dream.
Goatsbridge is on a roll. It seems to be one food award after another and so much positive recognition over the last few years. How, I ask myself, have we been so lucky as we drive on to build a sustainable business?
It began early in the year with our big win in China for our fishwives book where we won two prestigious awards. Since then we have received recognition from The Food Guild Writers of Ireland and were also inducted into the Hall of Fame at The Food and Wine Awards a few weeks ago in Dublin. Last weekend we won an Innovation Award sponsored by BIM at the Blas Awards.
I was walking down the high Street in Kilkenny city Friday with my youngest daughter Orlaith. She is a very confident, self-assured and savvy lady. I met many people as we made our way back to the car and every one of them mentioned our latest food award wins; I guess people are beginning to know our Company. When a lady call me by my name I did what I always do and pretended to know who she was, though I was wracking my brain as we chatted. Was she a mother of one of my kids friends, a County Councillor, or simply a foodies and Goatsbridge fan?
As we finally got to the car Orlaith turned to me and asked if I knew that person we had just met. I smiled, knowing she had guessed my predicament. She looked me straight in the eye and brought me back down to earth. She said with a loud chuckle “you think you’re great! Don’t you?”
Nothing like a family member to keep your feet on the ground and the ball moving in the right direction.
Onwards and upwards.
Thank you to everyone who participated in or supported the Fishwives project last October to celebrate trout, Ireland’s so-called “forgotten fish”. As you might already know, the proceeds are going to Hospice Africa Uganda (HAU), a charity that is helping thousands of sick and dying men, women and children in Africa, ensuring they have a pain-free, dignified death.
The Fishwives idea came about because I was frustrated that so many fish cookery books did not include trout recipes. There is a false perception that trout is somewhat inferior to other fish such as salmon and cod. We, at Goatsbridge, have worked tirelessly to educate and promote what I believe is an amazing product so I sincerely hope that users of this exciting new book by now appreciate what a versatile, affordable and delicious fish trout is. It was an idea to celebrate not just trout but also the fantastic wealth of female talent we have in this country.
Recipes in the book, which are beautifully produced by Slater Design in Dublin, range from trout caviar cocktails to fish curries, pies and salads. I had good fun including my four sisters, Miriam, Louise, Joanne and Cathy, who all contributed recipes.
Miriam (Donohoe) volunteered with Hospice Africa Uganda in Kampala for eight months last year and I had the privilege to go out to visit the charity in March of this year to see for myself the tremendous work being carried out by The Hospice.
That trip afforded me the opportunity to spend time with Dr Anne Merriman, an inspirational 81-year-old Nobel Peace Prize nominee who founded Hospice Africa Uganda in 1991.
The charity has helped make a difference at end-of-life to almost 30,000 seriously ill and dying patients since its foundation. I learned so much about life. I found love and happiness everywhere I went which made me appreciate a quote I read while I was visiting:
“The Happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything “
That trip is an experience I will carry with me to the end of my days.
The good news is that ‘Fishwives’ has been nominated in two categories in the Cookbook Oscars – the prestigious Gourmand World Cook Awards and is set for global honours on the international stage in China on May 26th this year.
With this in mind we are hoping to encourage as many retail outlets to stock the book and hopefully help us to achieve our ambitious target of book sales. Goatsbridge are taking no return on the sale of this book. We are giving every penny to The Hospice Movement. I am hoping you will agree to help us spread the word to sell the book. I am conscious many of you have your own charities to support so I completely understand constraints place on you to help us in our quest, so no pressure whatsoever.
The books come in boxes of 10 and cost €20 and I am happy to send a copy of the book in advance if any of you need copies as samples. Just email me firstname.lastname@example.org or ring me on 086-8188340 if you can help or have any further questions.
In the meantime, if you’d like to purchase your own copy of Fishwives, you can do so from our online shop and as an extra thank you, we’ll add a 125g pack of Goatsbridge Trout Pate to your order.
The Fishwives – A Cookbook by Goatsbridge book can be purchased from:
#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.
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.
Goatsbridge Trout Farm featured on the Mooney Show on Friday 24th October. If you’re interested in learning more about fish farming in Ireland or how Ger milks the trout for caviar, click here or on the image above to listen to the podcast.
If you’d like to taste some Goatsbridge Caviar, it’s available in our online shop.
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.