Darryl Hylands is a farmer’s son and founder of OBE Agri.
Farmer’s sons are typically good with their hands and making things – particularly when it can save them a bob-or-two.
Such is the personal background to Darryl Hylands in establishing OBE Agri – Old Bann Engineering – on the Old Bann Road outside Waringstown.
Until ten years ago the family farm grew broilers. Regulations required broiler farms to have an incinerator to dispose of dead birds. That was in 2001. When Darryl explored incinerators and their price and quality, his attitude was: “I can make a better one cheaper myself”.
“OK,” Darryl says,” the first one I made wasn’t that smart. Then it was a back to the drawing board.” Repeated testing and modification followed.
With the practical eye that comes from using equipment you make yourself, Darryl believes it’s essential to get close to the customers and to understand what they need. With an understanding of the quantity and nature of the material to be incinerated, the nine incinerator models made can be modified to meet customer needs.
When the first incinerator proved itself, a Moy Park grower requested one. Soon, the original two became twenty-two and the scene was set for what is now a truly international business.
To justify his claim that he now sells incinerators internationally, Darryl quoted shipping incinerators to Iceland, The Congo, Tasmania, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. Challenged that markets named were not renowned for their broiler industries he countered that customers were not now exclusively poultry producers. Incinerators are also manufactured for installation on trawlers to dispose of dead fish and for dead camels in the Middle East. The company is the largest incinerator supplier to the UK pig industry.
OBE Agri now manufactures in stainless steel incinerators for the medical market.
But how did the company get involved in manufacturing agricultural equipment, which gives OBE Agri its name? The company’s 36-page product brochure has 90 photographs illustrating its extensive range of agricultural products.
The agricultural machinery business, Darryl explained, started with contract manufacturing for a start-up company. That company ceased trading. Some of their customers approached Darryl to manufacture flat bed trailers. The range of machinery manufactured for the agricultural industry now has broadened from flat bed trailers to include drop-side, monocoque, livestock, ATV and other trailers. Other products followed including slurry tankers.
“We have extended the successful philosophy we established with incinerators to the agricultural business,” said Darryl. “We spend considerable time with our customers understanding their needs. This often demands the manufacture of bespoke products. Our philosophy is ‘designed for you’.
“We have the design capability and expertise and the production flexibility to produce a quality product to meet customers’ individual needs economically and at competitive prices. This flexibility, coupled with some unique product design features, are unique selling points.”
Darryl illustrates a USP by showing a single axle slurry tanker where the axle goes through the tank itself thus lowering the centre of gravity and preventing the tanker turning over. He tells that there were 27 instances where other single axle slurry tankers have overturned in Northern Ireland this year.
In the development and success of his business, Darryl is keen to acknowledge the support of Invest NI in facilitating visits to potential customers, particularly in Scandinavian countries. His success in GB, he attributes to a network of exclusive distributors, one in each county. This builds on the trust customers have in their local dealer. In turn, it builds on the trust the local dealer has in OBE Agri to deliver a quality fit-for-purpose product at a competitive price that results in repeat orders. A second slurry tanker goes out this week to a farm contractor in Derbyshire. “That order speaks for itself,” Darryl says, “and for the success of the philosophy.”
This conversation with Darryl Hylands took place on a visit to OBE Agri by undergraduates from Harper Adams University. OBE Agri has generously sponsored tops for Harper Adams students from Ireland.