By Dan Danaher
A RANDOM meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny blossomed into a great working relationship with one of the co-founders of an innovative award-winning tree mapping company, who has strong links with Killaloe.
Enda Keane, who was educated in Killaloe, met Mr Kenny by chance at Merrion Square, Dublin back in December 2011 and they spent about 30 minutes talking about his business, Treemetrics, which has won and been nominated for numerous national and international awards.
Born in Cork, Enda and his family moved to Killaloe when he was nine.His father, Paddy was a wildlife officer with the National Parks and Wildlife Service so it was no great surprise when Enda followed in his footsteps by studying forestry in UCG and UCD.
In addition to delivering an address at an official function at Treemetrics’ headquarters in Cork two years ago, the Taoiseach also gave the company a huge boost to their international profile by citing them as one of the best examples of successful Irish high technology companies during the recent world web summit in Dublin.
Mr Keane said the Taoiseach’s official visit to the company’s head offices and his public endorsement at the world web summit has given the company a huge lift.
“I wouldn’t consider myself to be a political person but I have to say Enda Kenny has been hugely supportive since our first meeting. He has followed our progress and is genuinely proud of our achievements and success over the last few years,” he said.
Based in the National Software Centre in Mahon, Cork, Treemetrics, which employs 16 people, also has an office in Dublin and is opening another office in America next month.
Enda Keane’s forestry career started in the private sector before he was one of the first forestry advisors a hired by Teagasc for the whole Munster region in the late ‘90s as farmers became more involved in planting trees on marginal land.
“I always had an interest in satellite and aerial mapping. One of first jobs was working on a satellite mapping job in UCD after I graduated. I became interested in technology when mobile phones and other technology were starting to mainstream.I knew mobile technology was where the world was going,” he said.
He founded Treemetrics with a college friend,Garret Mullooly in 2005 after spending the previous year researching the project. Part of their research involved a week meeting industry leaders in Finland, who were impressed with their concept but told them they were “mad” as they felt it wasn’t feasible to re-engineer how forests are measured..
Before the advent of Treemetrics, foresters were still using 19th century tools to measure forests.
In their first year, the duo won a European innovation award, the Schweighofer prize, which was worth €50,000 and a few months later they were awarded €20,000 from the Seedcorn North South inter trade competition.
“We hadn’t even a product at that stage only a vision. We raised money with Enterprise Ireland and private investors. We hired two software guys and our very first job was at a state forestry company in Austria.
“What we now have in 2014 is a comprehensive system for measuring and valuing a forest. It is the most accurate forestry system in the world. We use satellite technology with the help of the European Space Agency; small planes that fly over the forest and specialist 3D cameras on the ground to measure the straightness and quality of the trees before they are harvested.
“It is the first system in the world that measured the straightness and quality of the tree before you cut it. We have a live tracking system to monitor the cutting of the tree to make sure the forester is cutting on target and in the right way. The forest owner is still the owner of the trees until they are brought by truck over to the weighbridge at the mill,” he explained.
While a pupil at St Anne’s Community College. Enda played hurling with Smith O’Brien’s and was a member of the team that won a Clare U-16 Hurling B crown.
“I have great memories growing up in Killaloe as a teenager. I grew with Keith Wood, Anthony Foley, Finbarr Ward and Brendan Foley, who played hurling for Smith O’Brien’s. We had a great time playing soccer, rugby, tennis and pitch and putt from a young. I am proud of my old roots in Killaloe and still keep in touch with all my friends and family there.