In the run up to the 50th anniversary of Fieldays, the largest agribusiness event in the Southern Hemisphere, it is clear to see that the dominant mega-trend in global agriculture for the foreseeable future will be sustainability; the need to produce enough food for a rapidly growing world population over the next half century and beyond, at the same time as reducing environmental impacts from chemicals such as fertilisers and pesticides.
That is possibly the greatest single challenge facing the world at present: how to feed a population set to grow from 7.6 billion today to 8.6 billion by 2030, 9.8 billion by 2050, and 11.2 billion by 2100.
The Irish agritech community will play a key role in meeting that challenge by working with farmers and key agricultural players around the world to innovate and internationalise the sector, facilitated by great events like Fieldays. The common climate, a focus on pasture-led farming and the internationally recognised high-quality of food production of Ireland and New Zealand makes the relationships between our countries very successful.
The word ‘agritech’ tends to conjure up images of drones patrolling farms, autonomous tractors and harvesters, robotic milkers, and other pieces of futuristic technology. While these are accurate, the most important developments in agricultural science and technology will be those that allow us to do more with less as we continue to produce high-quality food.
Ireland’s role in the global agritech sector
Today, machinery produced by Irish manufacturers is harvesting grass throughout the world and is responsible for feeding cattle in every continent.
Ireland might be a relatively small agricultural producer globally but what we do in the sector, we do extremely well. Ireland has the highest standard of agricultural education in Europe and a reputation for innovation across the entire agricultural value chain.
Ireland also competes with the very best globally in terms of food quality, with extremely low rates of antibiotic usage, no hormone usage, very high standards of animal welfare, and full traceability from fork to farm.
Ireland is enormously efficient when it comes to food production. Our population currently stands at 4.7 million people but enough beef and dairy produce for roughly 35 million people is produced. Approximately 50 per cent of the food produced in Ireland is exported. That is the standard of efficiency that other countries must attain if the global food challenge is to be met.
None of these developments have occurred by accident. Getting the balance right between increased production and high standards of animal welfare and sustainability requires a combination of best farming practice and innovative agricultural technologies, supported by world-leading research.
Irish manufacturers are world leaders in the specialised production of machinery, such as mixer wagons for feeding cattle, high-quality baling and wrapping systems, slurry spreaders, agricultural trailers, and handling equipment for grain.
Investing as a long-term strategy
A new €20 million investment fund established by the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) and Finistere Ventures aims to support Ireland’s development as an “agritech island”. The Ireland AgTech Fund will invest in start-up and early stage companies that can generate significant economic impact in the Irish agriculture and food sectors.
On an annual basis, Enterprise Ireland is working with around 5,000 companies through a network of market and sector advisers based across 10 national offices and 33 international offices. Ireland has a reputation for manufacturing strong, well-made, efficient machines, especially in grass and material handling. Adding to this trait, is the track record that Irish companies have in providing strong technical back-up and support across the world. For more information, please visit irishadvantage.com
Irish agritech companies showing at Fieldays
Companies such as Dairymaster have led the way with significant investments in in-house R&D and a strong customer focus. Dairymaster’s latest innovation is a smartphone app which allows farmers to remotely control their milk tank
Keenan Systems’ InTouch service uses telematics to connect its mixer wagons in the field to a data centre in Ireland’s County Carlow, allowing for remote adjustment of feed mixes to optimise yield or milk production.
Equilume’s technology, which was originally developed to manage fertility in horses, has been proven to boost milk yields by up to 9 per cent per annum.
Grass Tech sets out to maximise a farmers’ profit from fresh forage by creating equipment to harvest fresh grass at the optimum time to maximise its nutritional value and feed it to the animals at the barrier.
C&F Green Energy manufactures small and medium sized wind turbines with a focus on the agricultural sector, making wind energy affordable and accessible to farms both on off the grid.
Article written by James Maloney, Enterprise Ireland’s senior regional development executive, specializing in the agritech sector.
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Contact: Hannah Fraser