Established in 2010 as a manufacture of wooden potato and vegetable handling and storage boxes, Patterson Potato Boxes opened a sawmill five years ago which has allowed it to diversify into cutting pallet and fencing timber.
Based in Downpatrick, Co. Down, the company is now a multi-faceted operation employing 11 people which continues to go from strength to strength under the direction of Aaron Patterson. Having got the idea to manufacture potato boxes from his uncle who is a potato grower, Aaron soon recognised the need to provide other services to ensure Patterson Potato Boxes was a viable year-round business.
“The problem with making potato boxes is that it’s seasonal work. We were only really busy with it from June until December when the harvest was finished. That’s why we decided to go down the sawmill route,” he explains.
“We opened a new sawmill after investing in a Woodmizer SLP log processing line in 2018. We’ve recently added more machines which have seen our output quadruple. We’re now cutting 100 tonnes of logs a day compared to 25 tonnes a few years ago. It’s more automated.
“We’re mainly cutting timber for pallet suppliers to the food, pharmaceutical and building sectors as well as for fence manufacturers. A lot of our pallets would go to Tobermore Concrete in Magherafelt, for example. Even though it has overtaken the potato box end of the business, we’re still making 7,000-8,000 boxes a year. We were up around 10,000-12,000 at our peak, but that’s before we branched out.”
Aaron has a wide and varied range of clients, including Eglinton Timber Products in Derry / Londonderry, SJS Group in Maghera, Timber Pak in Galway, Wilson’s Country in Portadown, Mount Hanover Farms in Duleek, Co. Meath, Tayto (NI) in Tandragee, Co. Armagh, J&C Sheridan in Kilberry, Co. Meath, Castlecor Potatoes in Mallow, Co. Cork and Michael Clarke Potatoes in Wexford. Suppliers include Balcas Forestry in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland Forestry, Scottish Woodlands, RJ Woodland Services in Omagh and JF Irvine Sawmills in Trillick, Co. Tyrone.
In addition, the Co. Down company supplies a timber by-product to the ESB Power Plant in Edenderry, Co. Offaly and Westland Peat in Dungannon. It also supplies animal bedding to the agri sector.
“My uncle grows potatoes and he was short of boxes. I made up a few for him and that is basically where it all started from,” Aaron says.
“Through word of mouth and producing a quality product, we soon attracted customers from all over Ireland. We take great pride in all the products we make. It is essential to make a product that will last. Our products are made from quality timber either home-grown or imported to suit all of our customers’ needs.”
He continues: “I started off as a one-man operation before gradually growing the workforce and becoming a limited company in 2011. A year later, we started supplying potato boxes to customers south of the border for the first time. The need for quality boxes with a long-life span became even greater and led to us increasing our customer-base.”
Strategically located about 20 miles from Belfast and close to all the major road networks, Patterson Potato Boxes has ample storage facilities on-site which allows it to keep ahead of demand. When it comes to potato and vegetable boxes, they can be manufactured to the customers’ exact specification. Standard potato and vegetable boxes are solid and spaced from 500kg to 1.25 tonnes. Log boxes, which can hold up to 2m3 of timber, are also made for the firewood market with extra-large spacing for air drying of timber.
The timber used by the company is generally sourced in Ireland with spruce and larch being used, while all products can be treated or untreated depending on the clients’ needs.
“We offer all sizes of timber for repair on boxes and a repairs service. All our boxes can be stencilled to the customer’s requirement,” he adds.
With the support of his wife Kristy and a highly-skilled team, Aaron has worked hard to make Patterson Potato Boxes the successful business it is today. He would like to take this opportunity to thank his customers and suppliers for their continued support as well as his staff for their hard work, dedication and expertise.
Patterson Potato Boxes Ltd
70 Rafferty Road,
Telephone: 078 1492 9479
Email: [email protected]
First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 11 No 3, May/June 2023