10 Irish agritech businesses secure prizes at Innovation Arena Awards

16 Sep 2020

From left: Mark Christal, Enterprise Ireland; Minister Damien English, TD; and Anna May McHugh of National Ploughing Association. Image: Maxwell Photography

The overall winner of the 2020 Innovation Arena Awards was Mayo’s Malone Farm Machinery, which has developed a 16-bale trailer.

Minister of State for Employment Affairs and Retail Businesses Damien English, TD, has announced the winners of the 2020 Enterprise Ireland Innovation Arena Awards.

It was the 10th anniversary of the agritech awards, which are held each year at the National Ploughing Championships and are organised by Enterprise Ireland and the National Ploughing Association (NPA).

As the 2020 Ploughing Championships were cancelled, this year’s Innovation Arena competition was a virtual one. Shortlisted projects were pitched to a virtual judging panel over two days, with 30 teams chosen from more than 60 entries.

The overall winner this year was Michael Malone from Malone Farm Machinery in Co Mayo. He took the top prize for the ‘Malone Express’, a trailer that can accommodate 16 round bales on a shorter chassis than other machines currently on the market, which makes the trailer easier to handle while carrying more bales.

Shane Kiernan from Iamus Technologies, an AI and robotics company based at NovaUCD, received the best overall start-up award. Kiernan is working with a large poultry processor to gather data on chickens and provide feedback that could potentially save the poultry industry billions each year.

Malone and Kiernan will each receive €5,000 in prize money. There were 10 awardees across 12 categories, which English said represent “the future of Irish agritech” and new product development.

“Ireland’s innovative contribution to advances in agri-business is recognised globally and we are leading the way with technology solutions that improve efficiencies through greater automation,” English added. “This puts us in a great position to take advantage of the significant overseas opportunities for this sector, which will help to drive economic growth.”

Mark Christal, divisional manager for regions and entrepreneurship at Enterprise Ireland, said that despite challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s entries are a “clear indicator that innovative and entrepreneurial activity will continue to drive our country forward”.

“Many Enterprise Ireland companies have adjusted and pivoted recently to help deliver success and particularly in ensuring that vital food and industry services remain open,” Christal said. “This resilience is particularly evident in the agri community.”

NPA managing director Anna May McHugh added that the Innovation Arena will offer the winners “a significant and unique platform for global business opportunities”.

Winners of the 2020 Innovation Arena Awards

  • Agricultural Engineering Award and Overall Innovation Arena Winner: Michael Malone, Malone Farm Machinery (Mayo)
  • Alfie Cox Best Start-Up Award: Shane Kiernan, Iamus Technologies (Dublin)
  • Agricultural Engineering Start-Up Award and IFAC Best Newcomer Award: Micheal McInerney, StrongBó Agritech (Galway)
  • Sustainable Agriculture : Alvan Hunt, Hexafly (Meath)
  • Young Innovator: 14-year-old Alanna McCabe, Fence DeFence (Cavan)
  • Farm Safety: Peter McMahon, Dromone Engineering (Meath)
  • Micro Engineering Award: William Pius McCloat, Suip Manufacturing Company (Sligo)
  • On-Farm Innovation: Peter O’Sullivan, Bullseye Engineering (Wicklow)
  • Farm Software Award: Pierce Dargan, Equine MediRecord (Kildare)
  • Farm Safety Start Up: Philip Dickson, Dickson Agri Solutions (Westmeath)

Lisa Ardill was careers editor at Silicon Republic until June 2021