Prestigious award for Irish cucumber growers
Welgro Produce, one of only two commercial cucumber growers in Ireland, has won the third Irish Newbie new entrant competition.
The Rush, Co Dublin-based business is the brainchild of Shane Halpin, Sean Weldon, and Gary Weldon.
Shane has a background in horticulture and mechanics, Sean has an accounting and processing background, and Gary has an agricultural degree.
They identified an opportunity to develop a business utilising glasshouses that had been unused since the owner’s retirement.
The trio now tends to over 20,000 cucumber plants in glass houses that span over 3-acres.
The company employs up to 15 people at peak times in grading/picking, packing and distribution, producing between 1-1.3 million cucumbers in a season.
As with many new entrants across the EU, access to land was a major hurdle for these three friends to become established in a strong horticultural area.
Leasing the disused glasshouses was the most viable option to get established while maintaining sustainable set-up costs.
Welgro has developed relationships with several well-known retailers. This was instrumental in ensuring a route to market for the cucumbers they produce.
Leasing to overcome a barrier
Speaking following the announcement, Shane Halpin said:
“We are very proud to have won the Newbie award. We as a team have worked very hard over the last year. It is great to get the recognition of Teagasc.”
Gordon Peppard Teagasc added: “It is very exciting to see three young enthusiastic new entrants to agriculture recognise a gap in the market, devise a business plan and seek out the necessary facilities to make their plan a reality.”
John Moriarty Teagasc, adviser on the Newbie project, stated;
“Shane, Sean and Gary have shown great initiative in setting up Welgro Produce. They have identified a suitable enterprise and pursued the opportunity.”
“Like most new entrants, purchasing or developing a site would be difficult for them.”
“Therefore, they have used leasing to overcome the barrier and become established in the industry.”
The Newbie Network is an EU Horizon 2020-funded project with 10 European partners.
According to Teagasc, Newbie offers a “unique” platform by bringing together new entrants, successors, advisors, researchers, important regional and national actors and relevant stakeholders in national networks.
The aim is to enable new entrants to establish a sustainable farm business in Europe successfully.
The Newbie network defines new entrants as anyone who:
- Starts a new farm business;
- Becomes involved in an existing farm business at any stage of their lives.
Furthermore, new entrants across sectors and regions face common barriers such as:
- Access to land;
The Newbie Network will identify and highlight new business models that overcome some of the barriers new entrants face through 90 case studies and a video library available to new entrants across Europe.
They will share these through various European and national activities, including national discussion circles, videos, and bilateral exchanges.