So there is an agreement with 4 South American countries (Mercosur) for free trade. Quite an achievement especially when added onto the Japan and Vietnam trade deals.
But for Irish beef farmers this one seems to be a big problem. The word devastating is used. Devastation to my mind conjures up images of empty fields and beef farmers out of business.
But is that the case?
So we see up to 99,000 tonnes of beef can come into the EU from these 4 countries in the future tariff free.

So EU has population of 512.6 million people as at January 2018. So first number is how many kilos of beef is coming in per person? My calculator is not great at long numbers but it tells me 0.19 kg for every man woman and child. In a year.
In old money that is less than half a LB.

So meat consumption in EU is 65 kg per capita. So that does look significant as 0.19/65 is nearly 0.3% of all meat consumption. On the pure beef consumption it is 1.25% of all beef consumed in the EU. Beef is only a fraction of the meat consumed in the EU.

In 2018 there was 270,000 tonnes of beef imported from Mercosur. That had a tariff of course. So now 99,000 tonnes of this will come in tariff free. So what will the Mercosur exporters do? Will they cut the price to reflect the tariff drop? Will they maintain their price and take the extra profit? Will they share the tariff drop to fund/subsidise more tariff paid exports?

It is important to know the answer. Ireland exports 470 to 560k tonnes of beef. In 2017 there was a largish rise in tonnes exported due to an extra 100,000 animals. This is likely to continue. So any price drop on any or all of this is very significant. Do we assume that the 99,000 tonnes will reduce the price paid for Irish exports? Clearly this is the fear of the Irish producer.

There is further concern that the 99,000 tonnes may be the best quality steak cuts. And if these come in at a lower price it is likely to have a knock on effect on the price of the other cuts.

Everyone recognises this trade deal will have an impact. What the impact is will be clear in time.

The world is increasing beef consumption as wealth and population rises. This is particularly true of China. There is a FAO forecast that there is a 0.5% increase in global consumption every year. It will reach exports of 10 million tonnes in 2019.
The 99,000 tonnes is 1% of this.
So problems ahead. Cost impacts are likely.
The classic answer is to go upmarket . It is clear that the work of Bord Bia with its Origin green scheme is going to be a major factor in getting Irish beef out of the commodity end. The quality of beef, its trace-ability and environmental friendliness will be key to going upmarket.
There is a fund of 1 billion Eur available. Ireland should lean into that heavily and get their product branded. Designation as origine controle (AOC) or getting some geographic designation may be a key strategic goal to get consumer recognition up.
Some form of future contracts might be beneficial too. Far too often Irish farm producers are simply selling stock onto a spot market with few if any alternatives.
This is a good way to get hammered by powerful buyers especially when there are huge seasonal swings in supply.
The impact is clear, prices will be affected. The extent is completely unknown. The Irish industry needs to continue to work to get quality, reliability and value up. Farmers will continue to do their part and will increase efficiency and value of the raw material. The resistance of consumers to the removal of rain forest for soya growing and animal grazing may create a negative attitude towards the South American beef. This could be exploited by a quality Irish product and will help add to the Irish premium image.
If farmers can also get a good scheme to measure and show the carbon sequestration effects of grazing compared to deforestation then a new market advantage may be discovered from this development.
Winning the hearts and minds and pockets of the EU consumer is key. The new adage of produce locally and sell globally has never been more clear!

IRL (Irish Rural Link) Climate change

The excellent organisation held a well attended conference on Rural Ireland and what it can do about climate change in Athlone on May 27, 2019. This is a subject close to our heart.

A great review of lots of projects underway, lots of understanding of the extent of the problem. a nice presentation by Mr. Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner about what might be available in terms of financial supports down the road.

A very diverse group of attendees and all on the days when the ‘green swing’ in the EU parliament elections were being noticed and new MEP’s were being elected.

One small critique, no great call to action , from the speakers. The organisation itself is calling for a climate summit of all parties in Ireland to try to get behind some common goals. From there plans can be made.

Some key takeaways for us.. Electricity decarbonisation is not in the hands of the ?Irish Government but is being managed by EU.

Our main (our being Irish Government and citizens) action zones are in transport and agriculture. That is where the changes must occur.

Ireland is the worst in Europe at decarbonising its economy. We produce more tonnes of CO2 per head than most of our European colleagues.

Some disturbing thoughts. But we are an inventive people and will find a way to get in front of the pack and lead!

Remote working

We have read a great deal about this and a recent survey indicates that over 140k people define their work as remote. This seems very large in and Irish context. Further work will be done on this to establish the validity and types of work. A great organisation growremote is working on this with government bodies and are to be commended.

There are some worries on this front too however. Many individuals find that working remote is a bit lonely. They seem to miss the interaction with colleagues and the plain old banter of the world of work. This is helped by joining in and using coworking places. Thankfully these are spreading all over the place. It is critical that employers help support these for the well being  of their team members and also for their own sucess .

As usual the idea of remote working is turning into a blend of working at home, working in coworking centres and other facilities and attendance at the central place of work. (If one actually exists!)

The opportunities in this area are growing and changing by leaps and bounds. Increasingly it is being found that open offices, multitudes of meetings, and micromanagement are actually reducing  productivity. Present day remote workers are a bit like evangalists and are making new ground. Turst is the key to future success in this area.

Changes in management skills and also in employee skills will be needed to make sure that remote workers are managed well and feel a productive and valuable part of an organisation. That is a two way street. Thankfully there are more and more people reporting about their direct experiences and the good and bad apples in the barrell.

The future of work in the workplace seems to be moving. There will be more automation of routine works. Some evidence based decision making will change too as computers will be able to consider more variables than us poor human brains. We see this in reports of improved early diagnosis of skin cancers by machines rather than by Doctors.   So work will change at the basic end and at the high end. ( in terms of perceived value rewarded per hour)

New skills will be needed and we will all need to adapt. But that is what we are good at. So no fears, onwards!


Drink Link Entertainment

We read a bit recently about the countryside needing an Uber type service to bring people home from the pub. It is an interesting request and one made at minister and TD level. We think it fits in nicely with the community building in Smartrural.

With the right platforms: neighbours, friends and even taxi operators could be connected. The public house owner can give a sort of early warning over the community platform. Along the lines, there is a big crowd in here, we’ll need to get at least 6 people home later. Or the opposite, its a quiet night. Local knowledge , local information all on a community platform.

Sharing and helping is always a feature of rural communities. Lately it has becme more difficult as the platforms took us away in FB land or the world of twitter and the like. The future and new technology can be built to bring us back to the community and actually serve the needs of the community rather than the needs of large gloabl organisations.


We have a wee story to tell of a small community in Spain. It is completely bereft of any sources of entertainment. The last saloon/pub/bar was closed down about 6 years ago. There is no restaurant, post office, shop or anything commercial. The village has a community hall and a sports ground, but sadly no one to use them on a day to day basis as they are now too large for the few people left during weekdays.

However one of the residents has decided that he would like to keep some sense of community and entertainment. So every Friday night he get his projector set up on a white wall in his garden, selects a film (or two), gets a few plates and some glasses and some cutlery. The neighbours arrive with some drinks, snacks and some nibbles.

The owner has good internet (not 5G)  but downloads the film in advance- just in case. Sometimes it rains and they go inside, sometimes they forget to start the film they are chatting so much.

He may be breaking some copyright but he hopes not as it is a group of friends and extended family.

He hopes that when Iot comes in play and more and more people are working in a location they love, that the village will come back to life. He has great hopes for the futue of work!

They have a great night and stop the film a couple of times to eat a bit of food and chat. The whole event has about 25 people and is a regular part of their village life.

Smart farmers #smartrural

We are looking at the continuous challenge presented by people with opposing points of view regarding farming, especially of animals.

We do not see much counter arguements or at lease there are but they are not always positive. Pity.

We think that perhaps there might be a plan?

Water- farmers have the resources to target water storage and ground water protection. How many farmers can say that 100% of their home water and farm washing water is rainwater?

Energy- This is really a subset of the Carbon and climate change issue. Again with solar , wind and geo therm solutions- how many farmers say they are 100% renewable? If the big corpos like Apple etc want to say it for their data centres then surely it is a positive for farmers to be able to say it too?

Transport/Vehicles- again here we have sities making huge efforts regarding public transport, biking, e-scooters and the like.  We have a hydrogen train in Germany and hydrogen ships being built. Are our friends in the farming community getting ready for hydrogen tractors , combines and the like?  Is there information from advisory bodies on this? Is it possible that farmers can generate their own hydrogen from amonia in animal waste?

Packaging- single plastics are the big culprit here, but are there alternatives to the plastics used on farm? Similarily with waste. Could farmers take back any waste they sell? Most sell without any packaging, so this is an easy step.

How about working to develop farms that are carbon and energy neutral, that release as much water to groundwater as they use, that use machinery that has zero emissions, that recylce all the packaging they use.

The problem of methane production and livestock production will be solved by bio chemists or at least reduced considerably. Or indeed new technologies may assist in finding solutions, in the meantime we hope and wish to work to assist in the drive to make #smartrural .

It would be great to read more about these initiatives. Any readers with information we would love to hear from you. @jsmartrural

Rural Transport

There are a few items to be considered here in the context of emissions and climate change. If we start with the assumption that internal combustion engines are bad then we need to figure out what is going to replace them and what is good.

So far we see cities adopting electic bikes and more recently electric scooters. The electric car is here too with many variants fo hybrid. However where are we going with tractors, trucks, lorries, buses and trains?

All these are really vital to the s=rural community and we need a #smartrural solution.

In UK there are now hydrogen buses, in China they are electric. In Scotland they are building hydrogen ships. In Japan they will have 35 hydrogen fuelling points to cover the entire country,  (which seems like very few but it puts everyone within 10 minutes of a point). In Germany hydrogen trains are up and running.

In Sweden they are putting recharging tracks into the roads so that electric powered lorries and trucks can recharge on the move.

So it looks like hydrogen and electricity (batteries) are the future for heavy transport.

The tractors and trucks of the future are going to have to change away for diesel. Are we ready ? Can we afford it? What will happen to the old engines?





There is a great tradition of telling stories in rural communities. These can be true, invented, exaggarated, funny, serious. The joy is the assembly of people who feel they are part of a community and the act of telling binds them to a place and to an event and to the teller.
Often there are disagreements, different points of view. but that is normal and part of learning, growing, and being human. It is part of beig a community.
In #smartrural we see storytelling as multifaceted. It is ideal if it can take place in a physical space where everyone in the community can attend. However, and no surprise here, that is not always possible. So we will use smart tech to get people to attend remotely, to participate and to encourage a physical attendance the next time.
The teller can ofter be available bu tthe audience may not. A simple bit of tech can assist in setting storytelling events up when there is a gathering. This can happen for a community event or for a simple reason like a change in weather or a wedding or indeed a funeral. These are times when comunity come together and using tech, storytelling can become a part of these occassions.

#smartrural has the advantage that it does not have to be advanced calendar driven with all the hopes that people can attend. It can respond to the prescence of people and just kick into action to set up the event.

CES 2019

Here we worry that there is not enough representation at CES. It is an area where we find our competitors are presenting their new products. We need to encourage some agricultural bodies to take a stand and show off the good things that are happening in the countryside. From building strong sustainable communities to using new technology for food production to providing safe homs with great education and health opportunities.

There is so much happening in the cities of the world, so much Investment, so much new technology being deployed the countryside might become forgotten. the best brains seem to be concentrating on providing new smarter platforms for the cities. We need to get some of these brains to help the country build on its strength and be able to be sustainable into the future.

Internet purpose

While working away reading of 5G, the future of work and smart cities, Ihappened on this infographic. It is a good one but Imust spend some time and figure out how many people are using the internet each minute.

The amazing thing to me is that most of the time is on communication and social networks. Yet as a race we seem to be more isolated than every

Some other aspects I found and will write about soon

  • the number of people living alone has never been so high and is growing rapidly
  • over 30% of people working in USA would rather live somewhere else and most would like to move from city setting to rural or suburban town setting
  • a few rural communities have rebuilt themselves by adopting a common purpose and going for it with as much energy as they could
  • the role of the countryside and its strength in its community will be needed as cities continue to grow.

    An interesting graphic on internet usage. 5g and future of work will continue to see this evolve.

    so thanks for reading. More to follow! #smartrural