Marie Martin (23) established her own business when she was a Transition Year student.
The Dingle, Co. Kerry native invented her flagship product – the Safe Scrub Sprayer – after her father became ill from spraying pesticides.
“I was helping my father on our farm; he was operating a hand lance on the back of a tractor using protective gear,” Marie told Catherina Cunnane – That’s Farming.
“As the evening and night progressed, my father started feeling rather ill.”
“He is a typical farmer so it takes a lot for him to go to a GP; he sought medical attention and it really was a near miss.” She added.
Fuelled with enthusiasm, Marie had a desire to prevent this issue from re-occurring, so she went in search of a solution.
She combined her agricultural knowledge with her welding experience to create what is now a top-selling product.
The Safe Scrub Sprayer is a front-loader mounted sprayer which eliminates all exposure to noxious fumes that accompany weed killers.
“It is activated from inside the tractor cab. You can adjust the height, the width and the angle all from the comfort and the safety of the tractor.”
Up to 50% less pesticide is needed because of this feature which has been added in recent years.
The Safe Scrub Sprayer can be adjusted up to 1.5-metres out on either side of the tractor, depending on wind direction; this prevents any back drift onto the tractor as explained by the 23-year-old.
It won its first award - the Young Entrepreneur Programme – just months after its creation. “Everything snowballed from there. Up until this point, I wanted to study Physiotherapy at third-level.”
Following this, experimental trials were conducted on neighbouring farms to maximise innovation, value and quality. The product launched in 2013 and is now available across the country and worldwide.
“Farmers want to save time and money and this product ticks all of those boxes and more.”
“We outsourced production when the business was in its infancy; however, my brother is now at the helm of manufacturing and my parents also provide assistance.”
Martin's Safety Equipment's mission is to continue to produce innovative products that promote farm safety in the agricultural sector.
“Our health and safety promotion is in an indirect way – it is through innovation and new product development.”
This means that research and development and having a close relationship with clients are integral parts of the business. “Constructive criticism is the most beneficial thing that I have ever experienced - personally and within the enterprise.” She added.
With several awards under her belt, Marie regards becoming a Quercus Innovation and Entrepreneurship Scholar at University College Cork (UCC) as one of her biggest achievements to date.
“This has allowed me to balance my academia with my business, sporting activities, farming and having a social life.”
She represented Ireland at Forbes 30 under 30 in Boston in 2016 and received a scholarship to study Innovation and Entrepreneurial Studies at Harvard Business School in summer 2017.
Women in Ag
Flying the flag for women in agriculture and women in business with pride, Marie has a desire to prove that females should aspire to be successful entrepreneurs.
She acknowledged the continued support of family, friends, Kerry Tractors, Tralee, other dealerships and clients.
She admitted that starting a business in the farm machinery sector in her mid-teens was challenging.
“Everyone including farmers, wholesalers, distributors, retailers and bankers did not take me seriously, but I hadn’t much confidence in myself.”
“I was at our product launch, with the sprayer on-show and a man came up to me and asked me what was I selling.”
“I shared my story and told him about the product and its benefits. He turned around to me and said ‘you’re a young girl, what do you know about farming’?” She added.
Marie said she now has a general, educational conversation with potential clients before she introduces her product to them - that's how she has eroded this barrier.
Marie is ready to embark on the next chapter once she completes her undergraduate studies this summer, although no plans have been set in stone yet.
“I try to build my portfolio every summer; I have worked for health-care and technology firms.”
The 23-year-old looks forward to helping her company reach its full potential as its Founder and C.E.O.
She will continue to be involved in the running of the family dairy, sheep and beef enterprise; she has a strong passion for exhibiting their commercial cattle at agricultural shows.
“Take everything with a pinch of salt and don’t be afraid to ask for help – that’s my mantra." She concluded.
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If you are a woman in agriculture and you want to share your story, email – firstname.lastname@example.org – with a short bio.