LIT Tipperary (formerly Tipperary Institute) graduate, John Heney, from Kilfeacle, had to call on all the media and business skills he acquired during his four-years as a mature student of ‘Sustainable Rural Development’ at the Thurles campus when he faced the five ‘Dragons’ on RTE’s popular ‘Dragons Den’ programme recently.
Mr Heney was presenting a prototype of his gravity-powered drive-through electric-fence gate, which straight away captured the imagination of three ‘Dragons’ who made offers for a share in the gate
This led to the Kilfeacle beef farmer having to choose between ‘Dragons’ Bobby Kerr, Sean O’Sullivan and Gavin Duffy as future business partners
Even though Mr Duffy sought a greater 45pc equity in the project in return for a €40,000 investment in comparison to the lesser 30pc equity sought by fellow ‘Dragons’ Mr Kerr and Mr O’Sullivan, the Kilfeacle man chose to join forces with Mr Duffy .
“It became very obvious as I was being interviewed that Gavin had a much greater knowledge of farming than the other Dragons” John said.
“I also felt that it would be much easier to work with one business partner rather than two”
John has been busy since his appearance on the programme refining and carrying out continuous tests on his gate. Not alone does the gate facilitate the free and easy movement of farm machinery around a farm but more importantly it addressed an important safety issue that arises when farmers try to prevent cattle following them through a gateway before they can get off their tractor to close it
John went on to say that when he began designing his ‘Heney Gate’ he laid out a number of basic parameters that the gates design had to adhere to.
· It had to be 100pc stock proof,
· It must also allow the free movement of machinery through it,
· It must have a simple mechanism that would always close automatically
· It must be totally maintenance free and not involve springs of other complex hinge systems
· It must be robust and have a strong visual presence so that livestock can see it,
Having developed his gate and secured a slot on the ‘Dragons Den’, programme John decided to apply for a place in the Enterprise START Programme that was just starting at the Thurles campus of LIT Tipperary.
“Doing the Enterprise START programme gave me an invaluable insight on how to address problems that inevitably arise when setting up a new enterprise.
The knowledge I acquired doing this programme gave me great confidence when entering the ‘Dragons Den’” John said.
On the question of when the ‘HeneyGate’ www.heneygate.com will be available to buy; negotiations are currently underway with a number of interested parties to manufacture the gate and it is hoped that the gate should reach the market sometime in the coming months.