Winner of innovation prize for women farmers announced

Margaret Farrelly with hens
Ruth Macdonald, Scottish Rural Network Support Unit

Irish farmer Margaret Farrelly has won the 2016 Copa Cogeca’s European innovation prize for women farmers.

Margaret Farrelly started out with 150 hens selling to a local packer. Today she has over 160,000 hens and an annual turnover of €6.2 million. Her company employs 33 people and she works with 22 other Irish farmers to deliver free-range Irish eggs and liquid eggs.

Winning the innovation prize acknowledges the great new ideas that have helped make this success possible. For example, when Margaret invested  in ‘Mega’ eggs (free range eggs that are naturally enriched with omega 3, selenium and Vitamin E via the hen’s diet) she realised that there were sustainability issues around fish oil supplies - the normal source for omega 3. To solve this she substituted linseed and seaweed in the feed - making the eggs more sustainable and suitable for vegetarians.

Margaret also uses innovation to reduce waste. She could not sell all her medium and small eggs, as the consumer usually wants large and very large eggs, so in 2012 she introduced bottles of pasteurised egg products to her range made from these eggs.

If you are interested in learning more about Margaret’s innovative work or about other innovation projects see the EIP-newsletter.

European Innovation Partnerships (EIP-Agri) help more people follow in Margaret’s  footsteps and use new ideas to grow their business and improve sustainability. They have created a database with information about innovation projects throughout the European Union (EU), so it is easy to find inspiration for what you could do on your farm. EU funding is also available under this programme for farmers and landowners working with others to try out new ideas and find solutions to problems. In Scotland this forms part of the Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund.