Located just outside the town of Adare in Co Limerick, Samco Agricultural Manufacturing first entered the trade 25 years ago and now employs 52 full-time staff.
With over 1,200 Samco maize planters working throughout the world, we caught up with managing director Robert Shine, one of the five Shine siblings involved in the business, to find out more.
Samco was established in 1996 when Sam Shine designed a film applicator to fit on the back of a Kverneland precision planter.
The Shines were milking 90 cows and running a strong agricultural contracting business at the time.
Robert said the family and other local farmers had been growing maize since 1990, but the success of the crop varied hugely from year to year due to mixed weather.
The Shines had invested in planting and harvesting machinery for the crop as part of their contracting business, so they were keen to make it work.
Their film system, designed to act like a mini-greenhouse, helped cut out much of the inconsistencies Irish farmers had encountered.
The following year, Samco designed and built its first complete three-in-one maize planter – it sowed seed, sprayed and put down film.
The company used Kverneland seeder units and Hardi pumps, the same brands it uses today in its planters.
Today, the maize planter accounts for 50% of Samco’s production.
The design has remained largely the same as the initial planter, but it has received many tweaks.
Its biggest advancement was the tandem system and solid wheels on the metering system, which greatly enhanced forward speed and output capacity.
After three years of development, Samco recently unveiled its Generation 3 planter.
It is a single-row system, offering the capability of using almost 30% less film than the traditional double-row system.
A small number of silage trailers were built over the years, but limited space in the firm’s facility brought this to a halt.
In 2010, the firm introduced a subsoiler and a land leveller into its portfolio.
Five years ago, Samco began building a punch-type planter, with three versions now available.
This precision planter is used to sow high-value crops such as pumpkins, courgettes, sweetcorn and sugar beet. It now accounts for 25% of the firm’s production.
Meanwhile, three years ago, Samco began building a silage fork, with 25 units reportedly sold ahead of this year’s silage campaign.
Interestingly, 80% of Samco’s turnover comes from biodegradable film. The firm has a plant in China which is solely for film production.
Using eight smaller extruders and two new high-output machines, the film is made from a resin.
Traditional film accounts for 80% of production, but organic mulch is growing rapidly.
Meanwhile, the firm also produces a small amount of bale wrap.
Robert said: “In 2001, five years after Samco was set up, we exported our first machines to the UK.
“More specifically, we starting exporting to southwest Wales, where the climate would be somewhat similar to Ireland. From here, we grew our market share throughout the UK.
“In 2003, we exported to Canada and in 2005, we broke into the French market.
“From 2006 to 2009, we broke into a lot of new markets, including Belgium, Holland, Germany and Japan.
“Our mulch film is today used as much for moisture retention in warmer climates as it is to keep heat inside the plastic in more temperate areas.
“Today, 84% of what we build is destined for export to approximately 23 markets worldwide.
“The UK and France are our main markets. They account for approximately 20% each.
“At present, our focus is to consolidate our existing markets and push our latest products into them.”
“We moved from our farmyard to a purpose-built manufacturing facility outside Adare in October 2019.
“Our new premises has provided us with a lot more production capacity and a chance to look at building larger machines.
“We are now building up to seven-leg subsoilers and 5m land levellers.
“We started building disc harrows 18 months ago, but production numbers were initially limited due to room.
“This now isn’t an issue and we hope to push on with such products.
“We are also intending on looking at further diversifying our current range, which may include a return to silage trailers in the near future.
“Our market research has indicated a lot of interest in our new bale chaser, so we are excited to see what the future holds for it.”
“We are a largely export-based company. As we are quite specialised, we have traditionally been very hands-on and do huge amounts of travelling worldwide.
“COVID-19 has really restricted our movements. Despite all the technology out there, farmers like to see boots on the ground.
“The delays to the supply chain and rapid changes of pricing is worrying.
“Traditionally, we would get notifications every now and then of a 1% or 2% price increase. However, this has turned into 5% and 10% price hikes, which sometimes are coming in daily.
“We are seeing these price increases right across the business, from blue paper towel right up to major components.
“It’s making it hard to quote prices for machines.
“Aside from the price increases, there are massive delays in components and transport.
“We export all our products in containers. Container costs have gone through the roof, while the availability is very limited.
“Container costs from China were traditionally around $2,000. Today, that figure is somewhere between $10,000 and $14,000. The cost of exporting to our supplier in Canada has tripled in the last eight months.”
In September last year, Samco set up a machinery dealership, taking on the Kverneland agency for Co Limerick. The dealership side of the business trades under Samco Agri Sales and also has the agency for McConnel and Vicon.
“We have been dealing with Kverneland for over 20 years for components, so we knew the brand and the people quite well.
“The dealership is going very well to date. Brexit and COVID-19 have prolonged our plans to further expand our offering but we hope to announce further franchise additions with a tractor brand and more implement offerings before the year is out,” said Robert.
Business: Samco Agricultural Manufacturing.
Managing director: Robert Shine.
Export markets: 23 countries worldwide.
Address: Adare, Co Limerick.