Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland software firm to create 23 jobs to aid farming profits

By Margaret Canning

A Northern Ireland agri-software company is creating 23 new jobs in an investment of over £1.4m as part of its mission to make farms more profitable.

Tough conditions led farm incomes to slump by around 16% to £283m between 2013 and 2014, according to figures from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Now Sixty-5 Technologies, based in Co Londonderry, has created a cloud platform which uses GPS to help farmers boost their productivity.

Its tractor GPS systems, for example, are used by grassland farmers and agricultural contractors.

One system allows farmers who are spreading fertiliser to keep a close eye on the areas they have covered and how much fertiliser they are using through an attachment similar to a car's sat-nav system.

And next month, the company will launch Con-Trac, an enterprise management system for agricultural contractors to enable them to keep track of the details of jobs.

Sixty-5 Technologies has been expanding since spinning out of Progressive Agricultural Solutions (PAS), which is based in Magherafelt, but the latest expansion is its biggest yet.

The new jobs will pay an average of £34,400.

Chief executive John Arrell - who also founded PAS - said: "Over the next three years, we are aiming to substantially increase both turnover and export sales through developing new products and services and growing our technological capability."

He added: "Our long term goal is to accelerate sustainable agriculture through the provision of GPS to ensure the farming industry optimises the best use of its land. Essentially, farmers need technology to be easy to use and we believe that the data should be there to support them for greater farm profitability."

The systems are made to be used in major tractor and farm machinery brands, such as John Deere, Massey Ferguson and Newholland.

Finance Minister Mervyn Storey said that the company had become successful through its embrace of innovation.

He added: "The creation of 23 high quality jobs is excellent news for the local economy and will generate an additional £792,000 in annual salaries.

"The total investment of £1.4m is a significant investment by this small company and a real commitment to furthering its growth."

"Sixty-5's approach to innovation to address a gap in the market will ensure the company is continuing Northern Ireland's rich heritage of agricultural innovation.

"It also represents an investment in satellite-enabled technology, which is an area that can create significant business opportunities."

Founder John Arrell has more than 20 years of experience in the agricultural machinery industry. And according to the firm's website, he set up the company out of a passion for mixing farming and technology, "and a deep-seated belief that farmers need technology to be easy to use and the data should be there to aid decision support for their greater farm profitability".

Invest NI has awarded the company £180,000.

Belfast Telegraph