Born in Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo in 1976 to meet Ireland’s growing demand for quality agricultural equipment, Major Equipment. has grown to become one of the most respected names in Ireland’s agricultural industry. Since it’s foundation, the company has had an international mindset and exports to markets across the globe from Chile to the UAE. The company places a heavy emphasis on continual R&D to design products that are renowned for their low running and upkeep costs and has found strong success in the Australian market. This month we speak to founder and MD of Major Equipment, John Murphy about the company’s beginnings and journey to date.
John, from small beginnings to international Irish success. In a nutshell, tell us the story of Major Equipment.
I started the business in 1976 to manufacture grass toppers and slurry handling products following Ireland’s entry into the EEC. Our factory is the West of Ireland; a very rural area with poorer land quality than the East of the country, so if a mower can cope with the conditions here, it will travel well!
In the late 1990’s we leveraged our extensive knowledge in designing and producing reliable and robust grass cutting equipment with the development of a 2.4m single deck tractor mounted mower for municipal applications as opposed to agricultural purposes. This product was very well received and the Major roller mower range now has fourteen models in a variety of cutting widths and configurations. These mowers can be found maintaining green spaces for local authorities in Australia and New Zealand including the Shire of Murray, WA and Boroondara City Council in Victoria .
Competition in the agricultural slurry tanker industry is fierce with tight margins. To differentiate ourselves from our competition we offer our customers a bespoke design service. We have invested in experienced design engineers and production facilities to allow us deliver these projects to our customers in the waste management and construction sectors. We have custom designed dust suppression units working throughout Europe and Australia. We export to twenty countries worldwide and this is growing year on year.
Major Equipment is one of the foremost names in Irish agricultural machinery. What do you put the company’s success down to?
Our success is down to our investment in R&D which maintains a steady stream of innovative and niche machines. The quality of the product is another factor; our roots are agricultural so everything we design is built to last. We are very thorough in our distributor selection process; it’s important that we work with companies who reflect our passion for delivering top class customer along with innovative machinery.
We have a great team here at Major. From our general manager Martin Keane to our engineers in our R&D department. My son Eoin and my two daughters Aine and Eibhlin are both involved in the business so it’s great to see the next generation making their stamp on the company.
Since Major’s foundation in 1976, Agriculture has changed massively. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in that time and how have Major adapted and developed with these?
You’re right there! I have seen many changes over the years. Farm machinery keeps getting bigger as do the dealers who sell it. We’ve seen a drop in the number of smaller independent dealers as some close and others are bought out by multi-depot players. The use of technology has had a huge impact on the agricultural industry from precision agriculture technologies to cow fertility management apps. We keep on top of developments through a combination of trade shows, supplier training days and customer feedback.
Brexit has had a major impact on Irish exporters, particularly in agri machinery. What steps are Major taking in response?
Although our sales to the UK have actually grown since the vote, it’s difficult to maintain our margins with the currency fluctuations. We’ve had an international sales plan in place before 2016 to reduce our overreliance on the UK so this has been accelerated somewhat. We have restructured our UK sales team. We’ll be keeping a close eye on negotiations and the final deal and we are in no doubt that the UK is going to take a hit for the short to medium term.
Major has gone from strength to strength in the Australia and New Zealand market in recent years. What do you put your success in the market down to?
A combination of having a range of innovative and niche agricultural and municipal mowers for this market, strong dealer network and a comprehensive dealer marketing support package in place. Our importer for this region; Fieldquip Pty Ltd in Queensland are a good fit for our company and they have a well-established dealer network throughout Australia and New Zealand.
Looking forward, what do you see as the key trends shaping the Agri machinery industry over the coming years?
The past few decades has brought about an increased awareness across the world of our impact on the environment. This is one of the reason for the success of our Cyclone Mower which delivers a flail mower finish, using 30% less fuel. I think technology in agriculture is going to bring enormous benefits to our industry; precision agriculture, crop monitoring and robotics.
If you were to start your career over, what advice would you give yourself?
To grow the business at a steadier pace; there have been some very stressful times over the years! I’d probably advise myself to get a better balance with work and my family life, although I probably wouldn’t listen anyway!
Finally, if you could invite three people to dinner who would they be and why?
It doesn’t say if they are dead or alive…
I’ve always had a lot of respect for Dr Noël Browne. I think he was a visionary and played an important role in the eradication of tuberculosis in Ireland. His book, Against the Tide, gives a really good insight to Ireland in the 1940’s and 1950’s. I’d like to like to have Dermot Morgan at the table too; a talented comedian particularly for Scrap Saturday. And gifted Joan Baez for the musical entertainment.
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Contact: Niall Casey