It is now 30 years since John Concannon set up his company, JFC, to supply specialised polyethylene products to the agricultural industry. From small beginnings making plastic multi-teat calf feeders, the company has grown into a hugely innovative international business with manufacturing and marketing facilities in Ireland and abroad, writes Matt O’Keeffe.
John describes the evolution of JFC: “Getting a slot on The Late Late Show [in 1987] was a great PR coup that established our first products on the market. It was a simple innovation, allowing a number of calves to be fed at the same time, but it had huge importance in terms of time and labour spend feeding calves on farms.”
Growing the business
From those small beginnings the business has grown exponentially: “We went on to produce drinking troughs and bowls, selling on the home market. The next progression was into the UK. Holland and other European countries followed on from that. The business was continuously driven on by new products, new innovations and attracting new customers. We did decide along the way that acquiring other businesses was an important means of growing in scale. The first move involved buying a London-based company and transferring the manufacturing back to Tuam. The purchase of a pipe-making company followed and that remains a part of the overall business. We have had a manufacturing facility in Poland since 2004.”
With sales offices and manufacturing facilities in Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands and Poland, JFC products are sold in over 40 international markets. At this stage, in addition to its core agriculture-related products, JFC services the marine industry and a range of other sectors including equestrian, recycling, healthcare, construction and materials handling. The JFC managing director explains why specialist technologies are now integral to the success of the business: “Farming is now a serious, high-tech business and it requires high-tech, high-quality inputs. The very same is true of other industries we are involved with. We put a lot of effort into design and development and tests and trials before new products are brought to market. We spend up to €1m every year on R&D. That pays off in the long run. There are synergies with local companies. We make components for McHale, for instance, and have a close business and personal relationship with the company and the McHale family.”
Giving back to the community
In 2011, John participated in the RTÉ reality show, Secret Millionaire, with the Pieta House charity. This was the beginning of a quest to establish a facility in the west of Ireland. John spearheaded fundraising with local communities and persisted until the ‘Pieta House West’ service was established and opened to the public in April 2014. He carries his contributions and efforts for charity and good causes lightly: “I was lucky in that I had an opportunity to help establish the Pieta House services in our area. Most of the fundraising, in fairness, was done by others. I was just the public face of the efforts.” A typically modest reaction by a man who has retained his sense of community as he built an international business from small beginnings in Tuam, Co Galway.