Our farmer in focus this month is our very own Micheál McLaughlin!
Micheál grew up in a small townland called Bracka, outside of Draperstown, Northern Ireland, with a strong generational tie to Agriculture by living across the road from his grandad. “I grew up next to my Granda’s Cattle farm and always helped him with farming chores. As grandchildren, we would get up early and go over to help with feeding the cows silage.” Mickey Joe (as he is affectionately known) started his farm basically from scratch in the 1950s and he’s grown the holding to around 40 cows and to 50 acres of land. Technology has most certainly moved on from Mickey Joe’s early days of workhorses pulling ploughs and the farm now operates under Micheál’s uncle. With a Mickey Joe on hand to share his hard-earned wisdom of course!
Micheál never anticipated he would contribute to his agricultural family history as a young lad. He says, “I was never sure farming was for me as I was always more interested in computers, tech and sciences in school.” This was when he met his now business partner John, and they began fostering their entrepreneurship by building apps and starting small businesses at the early age of 16. Nonetheless, as fate would have it, agriculture has weaved its way back into Micheál’s life to become the focus of his career and ambitions. Micheál gained a unique perspective from his childhood on the farm, and it meant that he had insight into the problems and concerns that plagued farmers day-to-day. He explains it as ‘understanding how farmers think about their issues and knowing their lifestyle.’ This made it easier to see areas in the agricultural sector that needed improvement. Micheál notes uniquely that farmers nowadays are vastly aware of the fast digitalization of farms and are accepting this rapid change.
The farming business and its methods are, to some extent, still run by traditional means of operation, such as managing finances through spreadsheets and keeping track of their logs with paper or cardboard. Micheál and John believed that the coupling of their skills in tech and their understanding of farming could help the farming community adopt software in their business. Micheál explains that “there is so much potential to help farmers by building software… and that is how we had the ‘aha’ moment with CropSafe. We felt that CropSafe was the right way to go for us. It feels right to continue our family’s legacy in farming… just with our own take on it, building ag-tech!”
As for CropSafe itself, the app and its development aim to make farmers’ lives easier by giving them simple and accessible insight into their data to support decisions around the farm. “The goal is to make the farm more profitable but in a sustainable way.” In the next 30-50 years, Micheál hopes that “autonomous machinery and software will mean you can run farming operations from the phone or computer. Helping free up more time for farmers to do other things they enjoy… spending time with their families, diversifying the farm and its revenue streams or staying on top of the ever-changing commodity markets!” What better way to honour Mickey Joe, than for his grandson to shape the future of how farms run software across the world.