Oliver Conroy – On Stable Ground

As well as being one of the premier agricultural contracting businesses in the midlands, Oliver Conroy Plant & Agri Hire Ltd. is also a leading specialist in roadwork projects, offering a pioneering on-site soil stabilisation solution. We travelled to Rochfortbridge in Westmeath and met up with Oliver to discuss the extensive range of services provided by this progressive family operation.

The seeds of Oliver Conroy Plant & Agri Hire Ltd. were sown by Gerry Conroy, who started working as an agricultural contractor in 1969. Today, the multifaceted business is fronted by Gerry’s son Oliver. “My father would have started off cutting silage and doing grain – we still do a lot of that today. I would have attended agricultural college and studied mechanical engineering as well. I went out on my own in ’05 and my father is also involved in the current business.”

With over four-and-a-half-decades of experience – in both farming and the use of machinery – they provide an unrivalled agricultural contracting service, with all tasks completed quickly, efficiently and at a competitive price.

An extensive and flexible range of solutions is offered covering tillage (drilling, ploughing, harrowing, seed bed preparation, ring rolling, discing, sowing, subsoiling, combining, grain carting, etc.); slurry spreading and farmyard manure spreading; and grassland services (reseeding, subsoiling, raking, tedding, silage cutting, whole cropping, round baling, mowing etc.).

A fleet of modern, well-maintained machinery is manned by a dedicated team of highly-qualified operatives, supported by a management team boasting a wealth of practical experience operating machinery in the various soil conditions and environments found throughout the midlands.

Established technical and agronomic know-how ensures the delivery of maximum quality in all operations, while regular training of experienced staff in machinery operation provides continuous improvement to deliver the best quality agricultural services.

The business has strategically diversified down through the years to also embrace plant hire and civil engineering works. “From ’05 onwards, I branched into a good bit of civil engineering,” Oliver reflects. “I designed a jet washer to wash roads for the NRA and had tankers out working at dust suppression as well as a fleet of tractors, dump trailers, low loaders and flat trailers on site. In 2006, I branched into soil stabilisation, where you recycle soil to stabilise it and use it as a building material.”

To this end, Oliver Conroy Plant & Agri Hire has been deployed as a partner on many major road work programmes and has established itself as Ireland’s foremost authority on soil stabilisation – a proven technique for use on difficult construction sites, where wet conditions and weak soils can easily be tackled by rotovating lime and cement (or both) into soil that is unsuitable for construction purposes to produce foundations for all types of applications.

As it is much quicker and cheaper to stabilise existing soil with binders such as lime and cement to create pavement and ground slab foundations – as opposed to the traditional method of disposal and import of materials to a construction site – soil stabilisation is revolutionising site preparation throughout the building and civil engineering industries.

Soil stabilisation is a modern and efficient method of recycling and strengthening inert and contaminated soils and other construction materials for foundation to buildings and vehicular paving, offering substantial benefits to the developer and contractor alike.

Oliver Conroy Plant and Agri Hire Ltd. has been involved with soil stabilisation since its inception and has worked on numerous road building projects throughout Ireland, garnering an unprecedented technical knowledge of the process and a deep understanding of customers’ needs. They can provide expert advice and assistance on all aspects of the soil stabilisation process.

In addition to their soil stabilisation and earthmoving services, Oliver Conroy Plant & Agri Hire Ltd. also operate a large range of plant and equipment available for hire along with fully-qualified, competent, CPCS-accredited operatives.

Not an operation to let the grass grow beneath their feet, Oliver Conroy Plant & Hire Ltd has also been granted a permit from the National Waste Collection Permit Office (NWCPO) to collect, store and spread Biofert throughout Ireland. Biofert, which is produced by a thermal drying process, is the first Class A sludge in Ireland and is considered similar to a commercial fertiliser due to its nutrient content.

“I branched into organic fertiliser in 2011, when the roadworks went fairly quiet, and we are licenced and permitted to move sludge in all 26 counties. Indeed, we are one of only a handful of contractors who are authorised to do that. In 2013 we were accepted by Irish Water on the framework agreement as a specialised contractor for sludge. Our work with Irish Water is growing as they will only use a specialised contractor due to stricter regulations coming from the EU.”

Between the agricultural, civil and commercial work, the business is now performing steadily all year around. “When you are depending on agri contracting alone, you would have a very poor cash flow between October and May,” Oliver points out. “That was why I branched into the plant hire work and then the commercial stuff. These are niche markets and we are providing specialist services, while at the same time keeping the bank manager happy as banks like to see a busy current account.”

At the time of writing, Oliver was overseeing construction projects on the M11, at Dublin Airport and in Galway. He regularly secures work with all the major contractors – BAM, Sisk, Roadbridge, Will Bros etc. The Westmeath man has attended myriad specialist courses and is a recognised authority on all aspects of the services his company provides. He has also invested heavily in a large amount of specialist equipment to ensure that Oliver Conroy Plant & Agri Hire Ltd. has the personnel, knowhow and machinery to complete all jobs in a professional and pioneering way.

“Recycling is the big thing now,” he continues. “We have two big jobs coming up next year in Enniscorthy and New Ross, where there will be no imported fill on a 40km stretch of road, which is something new for Ireland. Everything on site will be recycled and reused. It’s all about diversification and this is a service that nobody else can provide to the same high standards as us.

“Although agricultural contracting is still our bread and butter, you need more work to keep the cash flow going. No business will work for just six months.”

Oliver has just taken possession of two brand new John Deeres, which brings the fleet size to 26 tractors – all John Deere. Another new 6215 is due from Meath Farm Machinery in August. “They give us a great service. We’ve also got a new John Deere combine and forager.

“We invest as we go along and maintain every machine in top condition. We keep a service book for each machine and we are very particular about them. We have an excellent safety record.”

Oliver Conroy Plant & Agri Hire Ltd. cuts 3,000 acres of silage, whole crop and maize per year. They also do grassland subsoiling and grow some 1,500 acres of corn.

Steady employment is provided to a team of 14 but this figure will increase substantially as the summer progresses. Looking to the future, Oliver believes the business is in a strong position going forward: “The recession has got rid of all the messers and has given us a chance to diversify and treat this as a business,” he concludes.

“You have to analyse the business and see how you can stay afloat and remain profitable. There are guys working for nothing but this is ridiculous. You have to think about how much it costs to replace machines, make repayments on machines, pay for diesel, pay wages and PRSI etc. We set our price and we do a good job. We provide a quality service at a fair price, using professional operators, and that’s what we’ll continue to do across the board.”

Oliver Conroy Plant & Agri Hire Ltd.,
County Westmeath.

Tel: 044 9224499
Mobile: 087 2782126
Email: info@oliverconroy.com

Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 3 No 5, June 2015

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