As we approach the half-way mark of 2023 we continue our Leaders Insights series with a sit-down with Dr. John Daly of Dairymaster. In this installment, we learn more about Dairymaster, John’s own career with one of the globe’s most successful agritech companies and advice for those pursuing a career in engineering, tech or agri!
John, can you tell us a little about yourself…
My primary degree is in mechanical engineering and I obtained a PhD in Computational Fluid Dynamics and design optimisation, having studied in the University of Limerick. I have worked in various roles in design engineering, quality and research and development, both Ireland and Switzerland. In 2009, I joined Dairymaster where I oversee external research and new product development, specifically in the aspects of software and electronics.
Congratulations on Dairymaster being awarded our Tech Industry Alliance Multinational of the Year. What do you think has been the key to its success?
One of the key strengths of the company is the diverse range of engineering skills and manufacturing capabilities employed across a broad range of disciplines. This was the characteristic that struck me most when I first joined the company and although I had worked in a number of large multinationals, I hadn’t seen any at the level or variety of operations or research that Dairymaster undertake. While many companies have components from sub-suppliers that incorporate different engineering disciplines and technologies, Dairymaster is actually researching and developing these for itself at our global headquarters in Kerry.
The company has always had a philosophy of continuous development of new capabilities – within both the product range and the manufacturing process. This is delivered through a substantial investment in R&D, both internally and through collaboration with external research partners. This philosophy of always striving for better performance was pioneered by our founder, Ned Harty, and continues to this day.
When it comes to the company, what are you most proud of?
We are an indigenous Irish company competing on the world stage against competitors that have greater resources in terms of R&D and marketing budgets. I am especially proud of the fact that our success is based on being able to compete on the basis of product performance with demonstrably better outcomes for animal health, farm productivity and sustainability. Our milking parlour for example is our core product, and our philosophy and milking method is very different to the method used by practically all our competitors. Our milking method actually mimics the natural suckling action of the calf, and as a result allows us achieve higher yield, faster milking and better udder health!
The agricultural industry is actually driving the commercial adoption of many leading-edge technologies from computer vision and machine learning to DNA profiling and big data infrastructure.
The AgriTech sector In Ireland continues to grow, what do you think the future holds for the sector?
There has been significant investment in new facilities in the Irish market over the past decade, but there are still many farms looking to upgrade and modernise their equipment. There is great interest in technologies which improve animal welfare, reduce labour and help make the farm more profitable. In addition to this, regulatory and market pressures to respond to the environmental challenges will drive the need for further innovations and advances.
Irelands reputation for high quality food production means that Irish companies are well regarded in international markets. As Ireland and Europe restrict food production with environmental legislation we are seeing investment move to other regions of the world and this opens up new markets for us.
And the key challenges?
The single biggest challenge faced by industries in the agritech sector is undoubtedly the availability of skills. We need people with the technical and agricultural skills to help develop, install and support our products. People not familiar with agriculture may have an impression of an industry with limited career opportunities, but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. The agricultural industry is actually driving the commercial adoption of many leading-edge technologies from computer vision and machine learning to DNA profiling and big data infrastructure.
We are very lucky to have a thriving AgriTech and Tech sector in the South-West. What are the key opportunities that our ecosystem can capitalise on here in our region?
The amalgamation of IT Tralee and CIT into the Munster Technological University gives greater recognition to the offerings available in both Kerry and Cork and hopefully will help more students consider remaining in the south-west for their 3rd level education. With a growing trend towards relocation to the regions over the last three years, people are now looking more at the regions for developing their career, rather than thinking they need to be in Dublin or further afield to progress. This, on top of world-class education and training facilities such as MTU will be a significant help to business in the south-west to attract, develop and retain talent.
Innovation is at the core of your business, what does innovation look like or mean to you?
It is important to say that innovation is much more than just having a good idea – it is about making that idea a commercial reality. This means that the idea has to be supported by technology at the right stage of development, but also by a commercial environment that is ready to embrace it.
I firmly believe people should follow their passions first and foremost, then you will enjoy and excel at your career.
Any advice or insights you can give to someone looking to get into a career in agritech/engineering?
Agritech and engineering can offer exciting and rewarding careers, with scope for people to pursue many different paths. Whether you like working outdoors, meeting people, working as an expert in the science disciplines or maths, solving problems, working with animals or working with machinery, there is a huge range of possibilities for everybody with practically all possible career roles in engineering, science and business represented. I firmly believe people should follow their passions first and foremost, then you will enjoy and excel at your career. By building that career in agritech/engineering you will be working to support the production of healthy, nutritious food in an environmentally sustainable way.
John, our community always like a good recommendation, be it books, podcasts or places to visit for some downtime, can you quickly let us know:
Who is your role model and why?
I don’t have any one specific person as a role model. I admire many people for different reasons, from famous people I have read about to different people in my life who have influenced my personal and professional development.
What books have you read that you would recommend?
“How Charts Work” by Alan Smith is a great resource for understand how to communicate with data.
Favorite place to hang out in the South-West?
Years ago I regularly visited Kerry for hiking around Killarney, and since I moved here I’ve started surfing at Banna and sea swimming at Fenit. Still on my bucket list is to take a weekend for astro-photography in the International Dark Sky Reserve on the Iveragh Peninsula.
Recommend a podcast?
I don’t have any particular podcast I could single out. My children watch to a lot of YouTube science videos and many of these are extremely interesting.
Career highlight so far?
Graduating with my PhD was a significant milestone for me as I was conducting my research part-time over many years. More recently being part of the team at Dairymaster to achieve many different innovation awards in Ireland – the National Ploughing Championships and accolades abroad such as at Eurotier were key moments to remember.
Want to find out more about what makes our leaders tick? We will be back during the summer with more great insights from across our Cork and Kerry ecosystem of #startups, #scaleups, #multinationals, support agencies and organisations which continue to make our South-West region the best place to build a business. Stay tuned for more by following us on LinkedIn and Twitter and signing up to our newsletter.