10 innovative Irish companies steering us towards a green future

19 Mar 2021

Image: © jchizhe/Stock.adobe.com

Enterprise Ireland has launched a new campaign spotlighting companies from Ireland that are scoring sustainability goals.

This week, as the world turned green for St Patrick’s Day, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, TD, launched an international green innovation campaign from Enterprise Ireland.

Taking the opportunity of the national holiday to showcase Ireland’s green innovators and the contribution they make around the world, Varadkar said: “Climate action is, after all, an enormous business opportunity.

“As the world emerges from Covid-19, we need to understand that there will be no return to the old normal. We’ll need to build back better and prioritise the sustainable investments that underpin a global green recovery and the transition to low-carbon economies.”

Ready for a Green Future puts 10 companies that are leading by example at the fore of its campaign. These companies are helping to reduce the use of fossil fuels and tackling emissions-heavy sectors such as food production, construction and transportation with creative sci-tech solutions.

Abbey Machinery

Abbey Machinery has an agricultural heritage dating back to the 19th century, but the company has evolved with the times and is a pioneer of low-emission slurry spreading (LESS).

Slurry spreading is just one of the factors contributing to agriculture’s significant ammonia emissions. But with Abbey Machinery’s LESS applicators, farmers can reduce emissions by placing slurry in narrow bands.

Continuing to innovate, Abbey’s new smart slurry tankers are fitted out with automation and sensing technology. For example, a near-infrared sensor analyses the slurry make-up, enabling farmers to target nutrients when and where needed, reducing the widespread use of artificial fertiliser.

CitySwift

Transport is a huge contributor to global carbon emissions and passenger road vehicles are the main culprit, accounting for almost three-quarters of all transport CO2 emissions.

Any effort to reduce the number of road vehicles can change that, which is where Galway-based start-up CitySwift comes in.

CitySwift’s cloud-native platform aims to improve the performance of urban bus networks through data analytics so that more people can ditch the private car in favour of public transport. The data engine is already used by bus services in the UK and last year the company raised €2m in funding and began expanding.

Cygnum

Irish construction company Cygnum uses automated systems to build precise, computer-designed timber frame structures. This off-site construction reduces energy use on-site, but the material also makes a big difference.

While much of our world is built using concrete, its key ingredient – cement – is the source of about 8pc of global CO2 emissions. Timber, however, actually stores carbon, and so Cygnum’s structures act as a carbon sink.

In 2014, the Cork company was contracted to build the UK’s largest sustainable commercial building. More recently, a street of low-energy houses built using Cygnum’s highly insulated timber structures was awarded the coveted RIBA Stirling Prize.

Davra

The internet of things (IoT) means we can gather data from many sources, and that data can reveal opportunities for energy efficiency, emissions reduction and better management of resources.

Davra is a Dublin company helping organisations to leverage the power of IoT. Irish Water uses Davra’s technology to monitor pipes across the nation and prevent millions of litres being lost through leaks. Bus services in the US have used the technology to measure fuel efficiency. And, using European Space Agency satellite data, Davra also helps the mining industry monitor underground activity, which in turns helps to protect surrounding farmland and prevent pollution.

Ecocem

As already mentioned, the cement used widely in the construction industry has a massive carbon footprint. This is why Ecocem is focused on making a low-carbon alternative.

Ecocem manufactures ground granulated blast furnace slag (GGBS), which it claims produces 32kg of CO2 emissions per ton, compared to upwards of 800kg from regular cement. Also, GGBS is manufactured using leftover material from steel mills, saving it from landfill.

GGBS and cement are typically mixed together to make concrete blocks, though they tend to take longer to set. However, Ecocem has patented an accelerant that can speed up drying time.

GridBeyond

GridBeyond started life as Endeco Technologies, a company using IoT technology to help businesses reduce energy consumption. That mission has expanded as GridBeyond also aims to power the switch to 100pc renewable energy.

The Dublin-headquartered company applies AI and machine learning to help businesses optimise their energy use. Further to that, GridBeyond encourages businesses to store excess energy from renewables which they can then sell back to the grid using the company’s robotic trading technology.

GridBeyond’s vision is to build a shared energy economy and it is already working with large energy consumers such as data centres, hospitals and refineries.

Hanley Energy

Headquartered in Co Meath, Hanley Energy has been providing software to monitor energy use since 2009. It has particularly proven its expertise in critical power management for data centres.

Using Hanley Energy’s proprietary technology, businesses can track all energy usage, analyse trends and identify significant energy losses or overuse. Armed with this information, efficiency measures can be taken that not only cut energy costs but reduce the business’s carbon footprint.

By the end of this year, Hanley Energy itself aims to have a supply chain that is 100pc sustainably sourced, using only certified green suppliers and materials.

Keenan

Carlow company Keenan produces farm animal feeders that combine engineering and IoT technology to capture data on animal feed mixes in real time, in order to optimise the mix quality. The result is herd nutrition that is precise and tailored, which not only reduces waste but can also improve yields of milk and beef.

This contributes to an improved feed conversion efficiency in livestock, and the Carbon Trust has validated Keenan’s feeder as a more sustainable approach that can help to reduce on-farm emissions.

Established in 1978, Keenan was acquired by US animal feed company Alltech in 2016.

OceanEnergy

Part of Ireland’s ‘blue economy’, Cork company OceanEnergy captures and converts wave energy using its unique technology.

There’s more than a decade of R&D behind OceanEnergy’s groundbreaking device, which floats on the ocean’s surface, generating electrical energy. Each one can produce enough electricity to power 1,000 homes.

OceanEnergy is backed by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and also received $11.5m in funding from the US Department of Energy. It has partnered with the US Navy in a $25m project to launch a grid-connected device in Hawaii. This project will be used to test and optimise the device for future use.

Xocean

As OceanEnergy and other key players have noticed, the ocean economy presents an expansive opportunity. What businesses operating in this space will need for their operations is data.

Xocean is a Louth-based start-up that remotely operates unmanned surface vessels to gather ocean data for survey companies and other organisations. To date, the company has supplied data to more than 12 offshore windfarms across the EU, North and South America.

In a funding round that closed in November 2019, Xocean secured €7.9m from investors including Enterprise Ireland, the Marine Institute Ireland and the Creative Destruction Lab.

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Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com