TechWatch editor Emily McDaid sat down with founder John McClean to discuss FarmTV and its contribution to the agricultural community.
FarmTV was created by entrepreneur John McClean to publish video content of value to the agricultural industry.
Much of the content involves showcasing heavy machinery, where farmers can learn about the tools of the trade.
‘The world of TV needs to serve the masses, but we’re specifically for farmers’
“We publish content and we’ve also created the platform to host it – that’s where the real innovation is,” said McClean. “The world of TV needs to serve the masses, but we’re specifically for farmers.”
McClean’s stated aim is to deliver educational and entertaining videos to farmers, while providing income back to the people who make agricultural videos.
I asked how FarmTV makes revenue. “We have a subscription model [for viewers]. And producers will get a cut of revenues based on the popularity of their content, determined by algorithms,” said McClean.
I wondered if the plan was to eventually become a channel on traditional TV? “Farmers don’t work nine to five, so on-demand video content is what the community needs. Farmers might start their day at 5.30am and often don’t get into the house until late at night. The whole nature of mobile, on-demand video content is geared for this community of round-the-clock workers,” explained McClean.
McClean comes to this start-up from a prior achievement. He first created a DVD video series for the agricultural market in 2010, which he grew and exited, selling his stake to take on this new challenge. He’s used some of those earnings to launch FarmTV, currently a bootstrapped business.
He said his background wasn’t as a commercial farmer. “I grew up on a hobby farm and followed a career path into software development as an engineer but I never lost the passion for farming,” he said.
This passion is what McClean says is behind the content on FarmTV, with the heavy machinery being his favourite creation. “It’s almost like car enthusiasm,” he said. “The interest in tractors and other machines is all about the action and excitement.”
And this shows, in the videos. The loud music, scenic vistas and big, shiny tractors make the whole thing seem like a bit of escapism – just like most TV content.
FarmTV aims for high-quality, well-produced videos. McClean indicated that it’s important to “turn around the content quickly”. That means shooting it, cutting it, editing it and putting it out the door each week.
He said: “We have around 50 episodes available right now, a year after we’ve launched. But it’s not all machinery – we also have an AgLife series, which is non-machinery, focusing on people and their farming life.”
One important aim of FarmTV is education, and McClean pointed out that they’ve put a lot of effort into videos that inform farmers how dangerous H2S slurry gas can be at mixing time. “It’s all about the community and making things better for the farmers,” he said.
McClean continued: “Because we’re self-funded, we’re keeping things small initially. We have a handful of contractors working full-time.
“Initially we’re hoping to bring in content from all the English-speaking areas, such as Australia and New Zealand, the US and Canada. The longer-term plan is to expand to other territories with the assistance of subtitles and translation.
“Farming cultures are very different in each country; for example, agricultural interest in some regions is more about the business of it whereas in other areas, it’s more about the passion for farming.”
This passion is clearly what FarmTV is tapping into. We wish luck to FarmTV in the finals of the Invent competition.
By Emily McDaid, editor, TechWatch
A version of this article originally appeared on TechWatch
The annual Invent competition is run by Connect at Catalyst Inc, and aims to showcase the best and brightest innovators that Northern Ireland has to offer. Invent 2017 will take place on Thursday 5 October in Belfast, where 12 finalists will battle it out for a £33,000 prize fund and the chance to attend a Northern Ireland tech mission to California.