11 Irish agritechs secure prizes at Innovation Arena Awards 2021

15 Sep 2021

From left: Anna May McHugh, Dermot Weld, Tom Daly, Jennifer Corley, Kevin Corley, Damien English and James Maloney. Image: Maxwell Photography

The overall winner at this year’s Innovation Arena Awards was Kerry’s Brandon Bioscience, while Kildare-based EquiTrace took the prize for best start-up.

The winners of this year’s Enterprise Ireland Innovation Arena Awards have been announced by Minister of State for Employment Affairs and Retail Businesses Damien English, TD.

The annual agritech awards, traditionally held at the National Ploughing Championships, are organised by Enterprise Ireland in association with the National Ploughing Association (NPA).

Kerry-based Brandon Bioscience was named the overall winner this year. Kildare-based equine start-up EquiTrace, which signed a US deal with Merck last week, was judged best in the start-ups category. The two winners will each receive €5,000.

Like last year, the 2021 Innovation Arena Awards took place virtually, with 28 shortlisted candidates from a pool of more than 50 entrants pitching their ideas and products to a virtual panel over two days.

“The ingenuity and talent of Irish farm experts, entrepreneurs and businesses is once again captured by this year’s Innovation Arena Award winners,” said English. “In line with Government policy on climate action, the positive impacts that Irish innovation can have on future global agriculture, particularly in relation to environmental, sustainability and digitalisation solutions, are inspiring.”

He added that Ireland’s agricultural sector has “significant opportunities” in overseas markets and encouraged farmers and companies to take advantage of the country’s strength in agritech to succeed in the global sector.

Brandon Bioscience is a marine biotech company that collaborated with fertiliser manufacturer Target Fertilisers to create a new biostimulant product using brown seaweed extracts. According to the company, it has the potential to reduce nitrogen input on farms by up to 20pc.

Meanwhile, EquiTrace has developed technology that tracks a horse’s health, identity and whereabouts with microchip scanners. Its platform is designed to work even in environments with limited internet availability, such as stud farms. Founded in 2019 by equine experts Kevin and Jennifer Corley, it has been supported by Enterprise Ireland.

Enterprise Ireland CEO Leo Clancy said that the Irish farming sector has benefited from digitisation and increased use of data over the last few years. “The uptake of such technologies on the farm will have significant benefits generating efficiency and sustainability in food production.”

Anna May McHugh, managing director of the NPA, added that agriculture is “deeply rooted in Irish culture” and imperative to Ireland’s economic growth.

“Over the years, the Innovation Arena at Ploughing has seen some of the most cutting-edge technologies and brilliant pioneering ideas and this year is no exception, with previous winners going on to experience tremendous success in business both in Ireland and on the global stage,” she said.

Winners of the 2021 Innovation Arena Awards

  • Overall winner for an established company and Sustainable Agriculture Award: Brandon Bioscience (Kerry)
  • Overall winner for a start-up and Vet Technology Award: EquiTrace (Kildare)
  • Agricultural Engineering Award and ACE Agritech Centre of Excellence Award: Samco Agricultural (Limerick)
  • Agritech Start-up Award: ApisProtect (Cork)
  • Agritech Established Company Award: Alltech (Meath)
  • Agri-safety Award: Calving Assist (Tipperary)
  • One to Watch Award: SlurryQuip (Down)
  • Young Innovator of the Year: Carbon Harvesters (Dublin)
  • Ifac Best Newcomer Award: Moonsyst International (Cork)
  • On Farm Innovation Award, Alfie Cox Founder’s Perpetual Trophy: Crush Mate (Laois)
  • AgTechUCD Startup Award: Fodder Box (Cork)

Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic