Twelve years on from its inception, Agri Design and Planning Services is now firmly established as Ireland’s premier provider of bespoke, professional and value-added farm building and farmyard design services. We travelled to Tipperary and touched bas with founder / proprietor Aidan Kelly to get an update on this remarkable success story.
As the name suggests, Agri Design and Planning Services (ADPS) specialises in providing independent, architectural-level guidance and advice to farmers throughout Ireland who are considering expanding their farm buildings, yards and / or roadways or redesigning existing sheds and farmyards.
Operating nationwide from his base outside Clonmel, owner Aidan Kelly – a qualified architect – is a dairy and beef farmer himself (Milking 180 cows & keeping most of the young stock to forward store cattle. This is in conjunction with his parents Richard & Cathy and wife Seana, so he understands intuitively the challenges facing farmers when they decide that the time is right to embark on an infrastructural project – be that a new milking parlour installation or extension / upgrade of an existing one, cubicle shed, calf shed, silage pit, grain storage shed, slatted shed, animal underpass, or farm mapping, paddock design / redesign or roadway design / redesign service.
ADPS provides a full service including design, layout and planning, looking at everything from cost to futureproofing works by ensuring that options are kept open for expanding or improving facilities at some point down the line.
“I would describe myself as an architect for farming and a lot of responsibility comes with that,” Aidan notes. “You have to make sure you give every farmer the best possible service. A lot of time and thought goes into this and every project is unique to that individual farmer and farmyard. The average job on a farm these days is going to cost between €300,000 and half a million euro, so you want to make sure everything is right.
“You have to look one year, five years, ten years and 15 years ahead and leave all future options open. If a structure is in the wrong place and is going to impede a future development or extension, you are talking about a €30,000-€40,000 mistake and that is unacceptable. I’m here to give farmers a clear picture of what they are doing and to make sure that everything is properly planned and designed.”
ADPS hit the ground running and Aidan designed an average of 150 farms per year during his first decade in business. On the back of repeat business and referrals through positive word of mouth, demand for ADPS’s unique and cost-effective services has unsurprisingly increased exponentially.
“We are growing year on year,” confirms the personable Tipp man. “The bulk of our business at present – about 80% of it – is dairy and 50% of that is new-entrant dairy. There has been a shift because the dairy sector is so strong and prices are exceptional.
“Inputs are high and it’s an expensive sector to get into with building costs, etc., and the payback for the initial investment is longer now than it was – it has gone from 8-10 years to 15-20 years – but dairy is nevertheless still an attractive proposition to many farmers. As labour is becoming an issue, they are also building bigger facilities with more automation.”
Aidan estimates that Agri Design and Planning Services helped convert 40 farmers over to dairy in 2022 and 70 during the previous calendar year. “Upgrading existing facilities is a big part of it,” he continues. “A lot of the large facilities have peaked and the farmers want to get the work done easier. Labour is a factor for larger herds; regulations have changed and slurry capacity is going to be an issue moving forward.
“Farmers are investing in calf facilities and automated calf feeders. With calves now having to be held on the farm for 28-60 days, that moves a lot of extra work onto the farm, so there is investment in calf sheds and automated feeders. Where a man could be tied up for two hours a day, an automated feeder saves all that time.
“Generally, we’ve been very busy with slatted tanks, additional slurry capacity, additional cubicles and extensions / upgrades of existing parlours. We did over 40 new rotary parlours replacing existing facilities in 2021 and 35 of those in 2022. There is always work going on, although material costs have become a major issue. There’s a lot of cash in the dairy sector at present but farmers always need to be setting money aside.”
As a farmer himself, Aidan has an inside track on what farmers’ requirements are and he invariably goes that extra mile to make sure they always get a service with a keen personal touch and attention to detail that goes above and beyond the call of duty: “I always make a point of going back to each farmer and talking with them about what they did, what they would like to have done differently and what they’d change. That feedback is important in helping me to keep developing the business, following up and modifying designs. You have to be developing, improving and moving forward all the time.”
Aidan meets up with farmers in person and goes through all the designs and plans with them in great detail. To date he has worked in all but two of the 26 counties. While most of his work is in the Munster / Kilkenny dairy hinterland, he also works extensively across the midlands, Galway, Meath and North and South Dublin.
“I do get a lot of repeat business and it’s reassuring that so many farmers are happy with the service I provide,” he states. “I’d have some clients going back ten or twelve years who I’d have dealt with three or four times already. I always try to get the best outcome for the farmer. Often, that will come at the detriment of my own time, but it’s worth putting in the extra effort as that farmer will then recommend you to somebody else.
“Farmers are great that way. If you look after them, they will let others know. While I do a small bit of advertising, up to 70% of my work comes through repeat business and word of mouth. I always approach it with the attitude that my last job is also my next job.”
Often, it is the simplest solutions that can achieve the best results and this is where the expertise of Agri Design & Planning Services can prove invaluable in pointing farmers in the right direction. “If you can come up with solutions that are simple and practical, then that’s ideal,” Aidan concludes. “The more complicated it is, the more chance there is of something going wrong.
“I will look for the most efficient solution, with the fewest men and the best cow flow. You have to make sure that there is communication within the farmyard and harmony between the workforce and the system – that everybody who’s using it understands what is there and why it is there.”
Agri Design & Planning Services,
Tel: 085 7466211
Email: [email protected]
First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 11 No 2, March/April 2023