Welgro Produce located in Rush Co Dublin has been selected as the winner of the third Irish Newbie new entrant competition. Welgro established by Shane Halpin, Sean Weldon and Gary Weldon is one of only two commercial cucumber growers in Ireland.
The local trio identified an opportunity to develop a business utilising glasshouses that had been unused since the owner’s retirement. They now tend to over twenty thousand cucumber plants in glass houses that span over three acres.
Shane who has a background in horticulture and mechanics, Sean with an accounting and processing background and Gary who has an agricultural degree share the management responsibilities. The company employing up to 15 people at peak times in the areas of grading/picking, packing and distribution.
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 a number of well-known retailers which is instrumental in ensuring a route to market for the cucumbers produced.
Speaking following the announcement Shane Halpin said: “We at Welgro are very proud to have won the Newbie award. We as a team have worked very hard over the last year and it is great to get the recognition of Teagasc.”
Gordon Peppard Teagasc noted; “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 so 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. Newbie offers a unique platform by bringing together new entrants, successors, advisors, researchers, important regional and national actors and relevant stakeholders in national networks, with the aim of enabling new entrants to successfully establish a sustainable farm business in Europe.