Emerald Lawns invests to grow export sales

Emerald Lawns (Ireland) in Londonderry is targeting growth opportunities for its turfgrass products in key markets including the Republic of Ireland with help from Invest Northern Ireland.

The investment in growth by the company, which is based near Eglinton, was announced by Colin Sherrard, Managing Director of Emerald Lawns, and welcomed by Invest NI Managing Director of Clients and Entrepreneurship Ian Murphy.

At the heart of the new expansion is a substantial investment in the latest technology including a GPS-equipped Autostack machine for the automatic harvesting of turfgrass.

Mr Sherrard, outlining the expansion, which follows the acquisition of an additional 141 acres of sand-based land at Magilligan, said: “The objective of this investment is to increase production of a premium sand based turfgrass which can command a higher price than traditional turfgrass, and is highly sought after by golf greenkeepers and sporting venues due to its natural free-draining properties.

“The Autostack machine is enabling us to harvest turf three times faster than conventional harvesters. This is particularly important because of the perishable nature of our products. Demand can be greatly affected by weather extremes which often means a surge in orders at very short notice, putting considerable pressure on existing resources and supply. This project will ensure this challenge is overcome in a growing market.

“The GPS navigation equipment is not only improving the quality of the turfgrass through precision application of seed, pesticide and fertiliser, it is producing significant efficiencies in fuel consumption, seed, pesticide and fertiliser application and reducing the amount of potentially harmful substances released into the environment.

“The investment is also being made to enable us to increase sales outside Northern Ireland especially to the Republic of Ireland,” he added.

The company is being assisted by Invest NI in conjunction with the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development’s Processing and Marketing Grants scheme.

Invest NI’s Ian Murphy said: “This is a market-led expansion that will enhance Emerald Lawns capability and is in line with our support for companies seeking to increase productivity for export markets. The company expects to increase export sales to 60 per cent over the period of the project.

“The investment will enable the company to bid for new business in its target market through enhanced services to existing and potential customers with the application of innovative technology,” he added.

The company’s main customers include golf courses, landscape contractors, builders and private householders in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland markets. The company has provided turf for projects at Lansdowne Road rugby ground in Dublin and the K Club international golf course in Kildare. Currently eight people are employed, with the project expected to create three new posts.