HerdWatch x AgTech Ireland networking event, spring newsletter

Spring 2024 Newsletter

Welcome to the Spring 2024 Edition of the AgTech Ireland Newsletter

Farmers have had a very difficult time this last winter and spring. Tillage farmers struggled to harvest last autumn, and now have to plant late on land up to recently saturated. High rainfall since summer also required early housing of animals on most farms, and delayed turnout in spring. The weather is turning at last, but farmers are counting the cost in input and stress of this extra-long wet winter.

The last few months have thrown many other curve balls, not least tighter Nitrates regulations, and the fear that the derogation may not be renewed as Denmark’s abandonment of theirs looks set to leave Ireland the odd-one out.

A change in the interpretation by Revenue of their VAT 58 refunds for non-VAT registered farmers investing in fixed equipment also skewed the pitch, throwing financial plans for farmers, and causing havoc for agtech companies’ order books.

While massive European farmer protests caused the EU Commission to change direction – at least temporarily – on some aspects of the Green Deal and Farm to Fork agricultural legislation, Irish farmers have also struggled with delayed EU payments.

More than ever, farmers and agriculture need support in the work they do to deliver sustainable food security. This must include support to promote greater access to agtech, and the use of all tools including AI to help farmers optimise efficiency and produce more sustainable food with fewer resources.

Padraig Hennessy,
AgTech Ireland

Herdwatch first Member Host for AgTech Ireland Learning and Networking Event

Herdwatch first Member Host for AgTech Ireland Learning and Networking Event

In the first of a new series of bi-annual AgTech Ireland Learning and Networking events, Herdwatch was our first Member Host on April 19th, and their funding partner Renatus also participated in a discussion on the funding needs of agtech startups and growing SMEs.

Over 25 member company representatives heard from Herdwatch CEO and Co-Founder Fabien Peyaud about the development of Herdwatch based on an idea born in 2011 from the question “Why do 90% of farmers not use any form of farm software?”.

The journey which followed, he explained, would not have been possible without the support of FRS, and was greatly facilitated by securing funding from venture capital. The company is now in an expansion phase, wooing customers not only in Ireland, but also in the UK, and more recently the US and Canada, with locally based marketing and support, and plans to grow the Herdwatch Team to 80.

Fabien stressed that Herdwatch’s most valuable resource is its people: it is important to hire people for their attitude, as well as their aptitudes. To attract and retain the best talent, the organisation has to demonstrate clear purpose. Stressing the importance of staff wellbeing, Fabien said the war in Ukraine, which impacted directly some of its valued IT staff, was a particular concern.

Excellently MCd by our AgTech Ireland Board member and CEO of the Agricultural Trust, William Minchin, the discussion moved on to the financing of agtech startups, including the changing needs in their growth and late stages. Renatus Associate Director, Conor Mehigan, and Herdwatch CFO, John Gallagher, highlighted the different appeals and risks from venture capital versus private equity. Whatever the form of investment selected, it is not just about securing funds, it is also about finding the right partner who is in tune with the company’s needs and pace of progress. Getting the match right was facetiously described as a bit like a marriage, with the date for the (agreed) divorce already scheduled.

This was the first of a bi-annual series of such member hosted learning and networking events, and the next one will be hosted by another member (to be confirmed) next December.

For more of AgTech Ireland 2024 member events and other plans, see below. To find out more about the organisation and how to become a member, visit www.agtechireland.ie.

Virtual information session on VAT refund for on-farm fixed equipment

Karol Kissane, Former IFA Senior Policy Executive and VAT expert. Karol is now the Head of Public Sector Services and Economics with ifac.

Former IFA Senior Policy Executive Karol Kissane headed the IFA Team which negotiated with Revenue and the Department of Agriculture on the recent VAT refund issue for non-VAT registered farmers investing in fixed equipment on their farms. This followed from farmers recently reporting numerous instances of refund rejections by Revenue on equipment which would previously have been accepted. These unexpected rejections have thrown farmers’ financial planning and have consequently had major implications for agtech companies’ order books.

In a virtual information session organised by AgTech Ireland on 28th March last, Karol shared with our members how the VAT 58 interpretation by Revenue had changed without a change in the legal text. He stressed the connection with European legislation, the acceptance by Revenue to include some of the initially rejected equipment and outlined what he saw as the most likely next steps.

Karol’s presentation at the session can be accessed here.

The Netherlands – the other home of agtech innovation for sustainability

Our fact-finding trip to the Netherlands last January with 23 member company representatives was a whistlestop tour of some of the Netherlands’ latest farming innovations, developed in the face of drastic legal environmental challenges equally relevant to Ireland.

One of our hosts, Erik Bach, has responded to the limitations imposed on Dutch dairy and cattle farms with a research-orientated diversification approach at his decidedly unconventional milk and beef Stichting Future Farm. Biogas generated from manure and straw through an anaerobic digestion plant is fed to the grid, and alternative use for digestate are being explored with the University of Groningen. Duckweed is grown and harvested as a high protein feed. Online direct sales are being developed to sell the farm’s beef directly to consumers and restaurants. On-farm accommodation is being built, which, together with the panoramic meeting room located above a circular cattle barn will facilitate more business and technical visits like ours.

Erik is also a farm consultant, with no fewer than 200 farmer clients, and his expertise is in big demand from government in the Hague when consulting on and designing farm policy.

We also heard from Michael de Haan, project leader at Wageningen University & Research onthe Kringloop Wijzer or Annual Nutrient Cycle Assessment (ANCA). This programme was agreed between milk processors, farmers unions, feed companies and farm consultants, and while it is not mandated by the state, participation is obligatory for all dairy farmers to sell their milk to processors.

The programme collects and assesses detailed farm, feed and milk production data on each participating farm to measure N soil surplus, ammonia emissions, protein produced from own land, permanent grassland and GHG emissions. Farmers receive reports to help them improve their performance. The programme is also used to substantiate some marketing claims, including the On the Way to Planet Proof label with 800 farmer participants, and which features on most liquid milk bottles and cartons in the Netherlands.

This was followed by a short visit to Wageningen University & Research De Marke centre, where Elles to Winkel – Leijdekkers was our host and guide. On this highly specialised research farm, WUR meticulously measures all farm inputs and outputs, with a view to offering innovating agtech companies a commercial technology validation service. On test during our visit was a laser methane measurement system installed in the top of the barn. The type of work De Marke does in validating innovative solutions is hugely valuable for the agtech industry and farmers alike, and something which AgTech Ireland wishes to see developed more in Ireland.

Lastly, our group visited Lely HQ at Maasluis, and their demo farm at Schipluiden, where all their exciting automated milking, feeding and shed cleaning solutions are on display in a real farm setting. Also presented were systems enabling the removal of ammonia from urine, and the separation of nutrients from same. With Coert van Lenteren and Hijs Scholman, Richard Barnaby and more Lely colleagues, as well as our own Alan Heaney of Lely Center Mullingar, we saw those robots being assembled on the factory floor, saw their relevance even in the context of Irish grass-based milk production, and then put through their paces on the demonstration farm.

Renewing our strong connections with senior executives and founders from our member companies, discussing the take-aways from our visits and experiences and their relevance to today’s Irish agriculture over shared breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and in coach journeys between visits, made this an exceptionally enriching networking trip.

Thank you to all our participants, and to our hosts for helping make this field-trip a success.

Top level engagement with state agencies

Top level meeting with EI: J. Maloney, EI; D. Leydon, A. Fitzpatrick, EI; J. Greevy, T. Kelly, EI; P. Hennessy; U. Kelly, C. Duffy, EI and G. Lowe, EI

AgTech Ireland, as a voice on behalf of our member companies, prioritises strong engagement with state agencies, especially Enterprise Ireland and Teagasc.

In recent weeks, we have met with both at top level.

A delegation from the AgTech Ireland board, including Chair Padraig Hennessy, David Leydon, James Greevy and Ursula Kelly met with the Agtech Team from Enterprise Ireland last month. On the agenda were discussions around the EI vision for agtech, continuing synergies with AgTech Ireland, potential joint events to give greater visibility to agtech, and input from AgTech Ireland in helping shape the EI internal strategy for our industry.

Also last month, Chair Padraig Hennessy and COO Catherine Lascurettes met with Teagasc Director Frank O’Meara, Director of Research Pat Dillon and Head of Technology Transfer and Commercialisation Siobhan Jordan and Specialist in Knowledge Management and Communications Mark Gibson. The purpose of the meeting was to explore the scope for collaboration on a number of projects, from exhibition opportunities for members at Open Days to participation in sectoral webinars and podcasts, and facilitating access to validation processes.

For some of the projects currently being progressed, see our plans below.

AgTech Ireland informs the conversation on the future of agriculture at Carlow EPP event

Taoiseach Simon Harris opening the EPP event in Carlow

AgTech Ireland Chairperson Padraig Hennessy last month addressed an event organised in Carlow by the EPP Group in the European Parliament, to which Fine Gael belong, titled “Vision for Agriculture in Europe”. The event was opened by Taoiseach Simon Harris, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Martin Heydon, together with experts from various agricultural stakeholders, including IFA Deputy President Alice Doyle, Andy Doyle, and ICMSA President Denis Drennan, Irish Grain Growers’ Group’s Pat Cleary and Meat Industry Ireland Director Dale Crammond.

Padraig emphasised the importance of agtech to support the necessary resource efficiency and sustainability improvements in agriculture. He urged the EPP in Europe, and Fine Gael in Ireland, to prioritise a favourable ecosystem enabling the development of innovations by startups and established companies alike and facilitating ease of access and rapid adoption of new technologies on farms.

Podcasters can’t get enough of agtech

Agtech is the topic du jour for podcasters, and our Chairperson, Padraig Hennessy, has been featured on two of those in the last few weeks alone. The first, For Tech’s Sake, featured in our Winter newsletter.

More recently, Padraig joined Carol Tallon of iProperty Radio on her Proptech Hot Seat podcast to discuss the importance of a clear pathway to commercialisation. He also raised the question as to whether the Irish market is a good test bed for technology innovators. Listen here now!

AgTech Ireland at the Salon International de l’Agriculture in Paris

The Paris show is 60 years old, and an opportunity for the professionals of agrifood and agtech to come together and reconnect and network – over amazing food and drink at every professional stand. In its central Paris location of the Porte de Versailles, it is also the showcase for France’s agrifood sector to present its best face to the public – and the public comes in large numbers: 600,000 over 9 days.

Our COO, Catherine Lascurettes was there at the invitation of Allflex France and MSD Santé Animale France, addressing their symposium on electronic identification of cattle, as part of a national industry discussion about making it mandatory in France as it is in Ireland. There is strong support for mandatory EID from dairy farming organisations, much less from beef cattle organisations. In the absence of government support to cover the additional costs, the perceived benefits in beef cattle, though real, are seen as less than in dairy.

At the SIA, our COO also met with Business France’s Juliette Deltreil, who liaises on behalf of Business France with some of the largest French agricultural shows such as the Sommet de l’Elevage and SPACE Rennes, to explore collaboration to offer opportunities to AgTech Ireland members to visit those high-quality French agricultural shows as part of a France/Ireland agtech exchange project.

She also visited the stand of La Ferme Digitale, a major French agtech startup incubator – which could also form part of such an exchange.

Some of our plans for 2024

Coming up soon:

  • Joint event with ASA and AgTech UCD “The future of Irish agriculture through agtech” – Tuesday morning 21st May 2024, AgTech UCD, Lyons Farm.

    A pitching opportunity for member companies who want to demonstrate their technology and innovations to an audience of Teagasc/private advisors and ASA members.

    A discussion panel on the event theme to raise awareness of what agtech can bring to farm sustainability, and the trends in agtech.

    Networking lunch.

  • Information session in collaboration with DAFM on TAMS. Thursday 6th June 2024 – UCD AgTech, Lyons Farm.

    DAFM Speakers on the policy underpinning TAMS grants and the eligible items, how the scheme works, and how items are included in the eligibility list.

    Discussion panel and audience engagement on agtech trends the TAMS scheme should take on board.

    Networking lunch.

  • Participation in Teagasc Grange Open Day – Wednesday 26th June 2024.

    Exhibition opportunity for member companies – currently under consideration.

  • ‘Transforming Agriculture with Artificial Intelligence’ – a major AgTech Ireland conference sponsored by Big Tech (Headline Sponsor TBC). Tuesday 29th October 2024, Dublin Convention Centre.

    Targeted to C Suite Irish/international agri-food and agtech companies, Government departments, State and EU agencies, food processors, farm and industry organisations.

    Showing AI is the next step for sustainability-enhancing agtech. More information soon.

Our plans for the coming months/next year also include:

  • Participation by AgTech Ireland and its member companies in appropriately themed Teagasc webinars and podcasts – including the Dairy/Beef/Tillage Edge Series, the Signpost Series, etc. (under consideration)
  • Joint France/Ireland exchange of agtech company visits with Business France, potentially to include important French shows such as the Sommet de l’Elevage in Clairmont Ferrand and SPACE in Rennes, and engagement with La Ferme Digitale.
  • January 2025 Trip to London/Paris re. scene for potential agtech investment (patient investors), in collaboration with Business France and the UK Agri-Tech Centre.

News from AgTech UCD Programmes

FAST-IP – a specialist training programme for agtech innovators.

The Food and Agriculture Sustainable Technology Innovation Programme (FAST-IP) is a specialist agrifood technology programme that will enable innovation curious professionals to learn, explore and apply their entrepreneurial skills for the rapid advancement of market-ready business solutions. AgTech Ireland is represented on the programme’s advisory panel.

Supported under the Innovators’ Initiative Programme co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the EU, it is a full-time in-person academic 12-month programme. It will have five intakes of 15 participants, beginning September 2024. It will include 8-10 weeks’ immersion in agricultural environments, including farms and food processing companies. Participants will learn how to conduct needs-led innovation to develop market validated solutions to unmet needs in the areas of agricultural technology and food sustainability sectors.

With a tax-free stipend of €38,000, the programme aims to attract professionals with three to five years’ experience with a passion for agriculture, food, IT, sustainability, finance, engineering and/or science and an entrepreneurial drive.

If you are keen to develop your very own high potential startup around a needs-driven innovation for the agricultural sector, this could be the leg-up you need! Applications for the first intake are open since March, with scope to apply till the end of June. Find out more about the programme and express interest here: https://www.ucd.ie/innovation/fast-ip/

Moonsyst and PitSeal Winners of AgTech UCD’s third Agccelerator Programme

AgTech Ireland member Moonsyst (here left and centre, Des Savage and PJ Maguire) and new startup PitSeal (founded by Marion Cantillon, right) have respectively won the AIB/Yield Lab Agtech Startup, and the FBD Agtech One to Watch for 2024 at the end of their AgTech UCD Agccelerator journey.

The 12-week intensive agtech accelerator programme boosts the commercial and leadership skills of the selected participants through support in business development skills, investor readiness training, brand profiling and PR, dedicated and speed mentoring, access to corporates, to UCD research and on-farm testing. AgTech Ireland is pleased to support this programme, which has helped young member companies to take their next steps for the last two years.

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Dingle Hub: Gateway to independent agricultural technology validation trials

At Dingle Hub, we have honed a unique capability that positions us at the forefront of the AgTech revolution – hosting independent agricultural technology validation trials within a dynamic living lab environment.

Your technology can be independently verified, rigorously tested and refined in real-world scenarios focused on sustainability, adaptation, and resilience. We help digital transformation to thrive, redefining the frontiers of sustainable agriculture.

We provide a bespoke service that caters to the following areas:

  1. Direct Access to a Skilled Farming Community: We provide an engaged and representative sample of the national farming population, all experienced in trial participation and focused on on-farm emissions reductions. Their use and evaluation of your technology can drive success and market acceptance.
  2. Streamlined Process, Reliable Results: A single point of contact for all your trial needs, to ensure you get all results in a timely fashion. We simplify our process so you can focus on innovation, not administration.
  3. Expertly-Crafted Workshops for Valuable Insights: Beyond data collection, our workshops dive deep to extract crucial farmer feedback, in a collaborative space where farmers contribute to the refinement of your technology.


“In 2023, Origin Enterprises engaged in a project with Dingle Hub to evaluate our smartphone application, GrassMax, on a number of commercial farms in the region. Dingle Hub managed the project for us from start to finish, liaising with a significant number of farmers to capture and provide valuable data and feedback at prescribed periodic intervals. The service provided by Dingle Hub enabled our team to focus on existing workstreams safe in the knowledge that our product trial was being managed appropriately. Results were compiled and provided on time and in a format that we prescribed which really facilitated our results evaluation process. Through a number of workshops, we also gathered first hand independent feedback from the farmer users which proved very valuable. Dingle Hub provides a fantastic service for product evaluation on working commercial environments.”

Kieran, Origin Enterprises

If you would like to partner with us to propel your AgTech solutions from concept to field-proven tools of the future, contact [email protected].


Agtech Career Opportunities

AgTech Ireland member companies are hiring. Check out some of the exciting roles available:

If you are hiring, get in touch with us and we will share as part of our quarterly newsletter – [email protected]

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