Two EU-funded projects aim to double the size of Ireland’s agritech sector

17 Feb 2023

MTU lecturer Fionn Foley and AgriTech Ireland educational outreach manager Kieran O’Donoghue. Image: AgriTech Ireland

An Irish agritech cluster said their two initiatives have supported various companies, with plans to expand the projects to unlock the potential of Irish agriculture.

Two EU-funded projects are moving forward on their mission to double the number of jobs in Ireland’s agritech sector.

The two projects were set up with support from the EU SmartAgriHubs project, a €20m Horizon 2020 initiative that aims to digitise European agriculture.

The projects are being managed by AgriTech Ireland, which aims to bring industry, academics and government together to unlock new opportunities for the sector.

The cluster – based in Munster Technological University Kerry – believes many small agritech businesses have potential if they come together, work to beat labour challenges and invest in automation.

The first EU-funded project – called the Process Optimiser Project – is a programme to help agritech companies create a productivity improvement plan and a digitisation roadmap, through workshops and other supports.

AgriTech Ireland said the nine-month project has continued into a paid offering, with more agritech firms in the region joining it to get support in areas such as process improvement, waste identification and mapping support for future processes.

The second project – called Agriteam Innovator – aimed to stimulate R&D in agricultural technology by providing collaborative workshops to companies. This six-month initiative also matched funding supports to projects with commercial potential.

AgriTech Ireland’s educational outreach manager Kieran O’Donoghue said 11 project teams were involved in the Process Optimiser Project, while six research ideas gained funding approval from the innovator project.

“We’re very proud of what we have achieved,” O’Donoghue said. “I’m proudest of the collaborative effect the workshops have had, the open discussions that have taken place and the processes which have been implemented to improve so many experiences.

“Ireland’s agritech sector currently employs over 3,000 people and has a turnover of €900m. The target is to double these numbers by 2030.”

O’Donoghue said labour will remain a big challenge and that the agritech sector needs to invest in automation in order to achieve growth, as there are less people with traditional skills and trades.

“We want to hear from companies in the sector who want to grow, who provide a produce or a service in the AgriTech space, companies supplying products to farmers,” O’Donoghue said. “The supports and help are there – it’s just about working together to access them and benefit from them.”

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic