Irish entrepreneur Dr Pearse Lyons who built Alltech empire has died

9 Mar 2018

Alltech founder and president Dr Pearse Lyons speaks at the opening of the annual Alltech One Ideas Conference in Lexington, Kentucky. Image: Alltech

Dr Pearse Lyons built a $2bn agritech giant after risking everything, bringing his young family to the US with just $10,000, to start a business.

The death has been announced of Dr Pearse Lyons (73), founder and president of US-headquartered health and nutrition giant Alltech Inc.

Louth-born Thomas Pearse Lyons built a global business empire that employs more than 5,000 people across 100 manufacturing sites, recording annual revenues exceeding $2bn.

‘He planted seeds that will produce a bountiful harvest for the world in the years to come’

Future Human

Not only does Alltech have European headquarters in Dunboyne, Co Meath, but Dr Lyons personally took an interest in fostering entrepreneurship in the food and agritech industry from Ireland. He located an accelerator named after him, The Pearse Lyons Accelerator, at Dogpatch Labs in Dublin, which is now into its second year of operation.

In recent years, he also set up a distillery in his name in the Liberties area of Dublin.

Entrepreneurial vision

Irish entrepreneur Dr Pearse Lyons who built global Alltech agritech empire has died

Dr Pearse Lyons, entrepreneur, scientist and president of Alltech, listens at the ceremony in which he received a doctor of philosophy honoris causa from Dublin City University. Image: Fotonic Photography

Dr Lyons began his career at Harp Lager while studying at University College Dublin and, after graduating with an MSc in brewing science, he landed his “dream job” at Irish Distillers.

His work led him to Kentucky and, with just $10,000, he established Alltech in 1976. He used his own garage as a site, working on the principle that yeasts and enzymes could be used in animal feed.

Alltech became the fastest-growing company in the global animal health industry through innovative technology, creative marketing and strong branding.

At the time of the establishment of the accelerator at Dogpatch Labs, Dr Lyons said: “36 years ago, I founded Alltech in my home with just $10,000 in my pocket, and that investment has grown into an international business with revenues of more than $2bn.

“Alltech’s roots are in entrepreneurial innovation, and it’s an exciting time to be in agriculture. Personally, I am looking forward to supporting and empowering rising entrepreneurs in making tomorrow’s innovations a reality,” he said.

The effectiveness of The Pearse Lyons Accelerator in Dublin could be seen in the first year when participants generated more than $40m between them in new qualified sales leads across 28 international markets. Participants included two local Irish tech firms, Moocall and MagGrow.

Not only that, but seven out of the 10 participants in the first year of The Pearse Lyons Accelerator were listed in the top 100 agritech companies by CB Insights.

Inspirational leader

Dr Lyons was widely regarded as an inspirational leader and communicator who would typically rise before dawn to begin communicating with colleagues around the world, issuing daily ‘one-minute charge’ motivational messages and travelling incessantly so he could meet his team members and customers in person.

It is understood that he had been unwell since November and suffered complications when he went to hospital for routine heart surgery. He passed away yesterday (8 March).

“We are all deeply saddened by my father’s passing,” said Dr Mark Lyons, Pearse’s son, and chair and president of Alltech.

“He always focused on developing people, and he built an extraordinary team over the years. I know he had full confidence in his team to continue growing the company he built.

“He saw farther into the horizon than anyone in the industry, and we as his team are committed to delivering on the future he envisioned. He planted seeds that will produce a bountiful harvest for the world in the years to come.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years