BÃ³ Steel won a national design award for his unique milk shed he built in Headford, County Galway.
The company is an agricultural engineering company specializing in livestock handling solutions to help improve safety on Irish farms for farmers and animals.
The award was part of the Irish Business Design Challenge 2021. BÃ³ Steel, of Athenry, Co. Galway, was the co-winner in the small and medium category.
The competition is an initiative of the Design & Crafts Council Ireland in partnership with Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices. It is supported by the Ministry of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
According to Paul Lyons, founder and technical director of BÃ³ Steel, he discovered the competition thanks to the board of directors of his local company.
Talk to It’s agriculture, he said:
âWhen I read the criteria for the competition, I realized this was exactly what we were doing with a project for our only client, Sean McDonagh, a farmer from Headford. “
âWe tried to innovate, trying to solve some problems for him. We were initially sitting on the fence a bit. Was this a product we could offer? is it once? “
“But the more we delved into it, the more we realized that there was a need in the market for a little more innovative thinking about farm building.”
Paul adds that they believed they had done something of merit and wanted to see if they could get recognition for it.
“And at the same time, we thought we could get some publicity out of it as well.”
â¬ 15,000 in R&D earnings
Paul will invest their winning prize of â¬ 15,000 in R&D. The company has booked an older building on site, which it is fitting out and dedicating for this purpose.
âIn the normal functioning of a company, it is not always possible to release funds for R&D.
Elaborating on the hangar itself, he says construction began in October 2020 and was completed in March of this year.
âSean is a good client for us. He bought several products from us in a few years. I have met him a few times, and he struck me as someone with good ideas. He really reflects them.
âPlus he has a lot of contact with the farmers themselves, and they all talk. He had this idea for a shed, and at that time we weren’t building farm buildings.
Paul says he initially declined the offer, but ultimately accepted the project, building the structure and the livestock handling solutions.
Design for a one-person farm
It was important that everything in the hangar, as far as possible, could be operated with one hand.
âPlus, he needed to be safe. If he had an aggressive animal, there had to be exits or barriers to protect him.
âHe has an aging family. His father and mother are on the farm with him. If for some reason they entered the hangar, they had to be safe. All of this guided us in our design decisions.
Regarding one-person farm designs, Paul says this has become more relevant over the past decade or so, especially with the shortage of farm labor.
âWe have done this successfully for clients a few times. It just requires careful planning.
Safety is a top priority
Safety is a priority in all designs and work that BÃ³ Steel undertakes.
âI have seen and heard of my fair share of agricultural accidents. I guess as you grow up on a farm you will always be involved in a few incidents, although luckily nothing bad has ever happened.
âWe tend to hear firsthand stories of near misses and tragedies. It really focuses the mind on trying to improve your product or trying to solve a problem.
Paul says the design and construction of the shed really brought home what can be achieved with a little bit of thought outside the box.
âIf you take a standard feature and tweak it slightly, you get a whole different product. Something people can safely use; is simple to use and they are comfortable and satisfied.
Additionally, after the victory, BÃ³ Steel expects more custom builds to follow. They already have “a lot of interest in a few jobs,” continues Paul.
âFarmers normally come to see us when the shed is under construction or has already been completed. But in the future, we will engage the farmers from the beginning with the start-up phase. “
Win is excellent for agriculture
Shedding more light on the victory, Paul says what makes it special is that it’s great for farming, especially since it’s a farm shed.
âAgriculture is often mentioned for all the wrong reasons. Therefore, it is good that an award is given for something positive, and it is good for farm safety.
âThis is good news for agriculture. We badly need it.
Personally, Paul feels good to be recognized after starting the business in 2007 and building it from scratch.
âWe started during the recession. I’ve always tried to design new products, and it’s just great to win something.
Paul comes from an agricultural background and has been involved in repairs and making farms from a young age.
He studied mechanical engineering, after which he worked in the military as an engineer before founding BÃ³ Steel.
In the last two years he has obtained a Masters in Innovation from the National University of Ireland in Galway.
“It was actually focused on innovation in agriculture, which really touched me and helped me tremendously.”
Calving gates generate income
Most of BÃ³ Steel’s income comes from the sale of calving gates. This is followed by their Structured Steels for Industry and Construction division.
The group is focused on growing the agricultural aspect of its business and developing its products.
As for growth, Paul says their UK exports have likely doubled this year.
âBecause we’re a small, agile company, we can quickly adapt our products to a different market if we need to, while a larger company may struggle. “
Around 70% of the group’s turnover is generated locally. Besides the UK, it is also generating interest in its products from Europe and as far away as Australia.
BÃ³ Steel also operates online activities, although they are mainly complementary. Paul says a lot of their products are quite large and difficult to sell online.
âBut some of our small safety items, like backstop bars and some door brackets, are sold there. “
âIn an ideal world, we would like to sell more online, but farmers are very tactile. They like to see and smell the product before they buy it. And they certainly like to talk to the person who made the product beforehand.
Commenting on what he sees as the key to a successful business, Paul says it’s important to listen to your customer. âA big part of the thinking behind our design process is to listen to the customer.â
As for what he still wants to accomplish with BÃ³ Steel, Paul concludes: âWe want to be the market leaders in our field. This is one of the reasons I founded the company.
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