In 1894 Horace Curzon Plunkett established the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society (IAOS). During his time in the US, the Meathman saw the potential for a well-organised co-operative movement to improve the competitiveness of Irish farming by developing a more business-like approach to farming.

The role of IAOS, now known as the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS), was to facilitate the formation and operation of working co-operative societies. By 1914, the number of co-ops in Ireland swelled to over 800.