Winter 2023 Newsletter

Welcome to the Winter edition of the AgTech Ireland Newsletter

Edition 2 / Issue 3

2023 has proven challenging for the agriculture sector.

Commodity prices fell dramatically while input costs continued at high levels, squeezing farmers’ margins. Weather conditions oscillated from too dry to too wet, with disastrous consequences for the 2023 grain, oilseed and protein crops harvest, and threatening this winter’s quantity and quality of fodder on livestock farms. Nitrates regulation changes and the now confirmed prospect of a reduced derogation level from 250kgs to 220 kgs/N/ha from January, with much trepidation at the possible removal of the derogation after 2025, will all force significant decisions on many dairy farms.

Add to this the difficulties and delays in the operation of EU payments under the new CAP, including those under the TAMS scheme and you have a recipe for stressed farm businesses, women and men, which inevitably spills over into more conservative investment decisions.

Thankfully for all in the sector, the Teagasc Outlook 2024 – Economic Prospects for Agriculture suggests a more benign outlook for next year with farming incomes rising 30% from 2023 levels, as commodity prices recover and input costs moderate somewhat. Global food, fertiliser and energy prices are all affected by unpredictable geopolitical events, and by climate change.

The need for farmers to continue adopting new farming and business practices and technologies in a bid to better control their margins, manage their farm businesses, as well as meet their compliance, climate and other environmental obligations continues regardless.

Irish agtech companies will be there to support them in good and bad times.

Enjoy the newsletter and feel free to share with your network.

I take this opportunity to wish you and yours a peaceful Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

Padraig Hennessy,

AgTech Ireland 2024 trip to the Netherlands

Next January, AgTech Ireland members will travel to the Netherlands for two days to find out how the significant climate, phosphates, nitrates and other environmental challenges faced by Dutch farmers are being answered by agtech operators.Our itinerary:

  • Future Farm, a knowledge and innovation hub focused on circular dairy farming, closing as many input and nutrient cycles as possible within the farm or in the local area while reducing ammonia and methane emissions and contributing to nature, landscape and biodiversity. All this with a balanced revenue model. With the help of engineers and researchers, Future Farm develops new techniques or applies existing techniques in a smart way, in new combinations, in a real-life business setting.

  • Kringloop Wijzer project, at Wageningen University, which provides farmers with a tool to monitor the agronomic and environmental performances of grassland-based dairy farms. This enables them to calculate all their mineral, nutrients inputs and outputs, with GHG emissions soon to be added.

  • Lely Headquarters and Demo Farm which showcase automation on dairy and cattle farms.

AgTech Ireland aims to provide its members with learning and networking opportunities, at home and abroad, and hopes to organise further such study trips, including to France (see our plans for 2024 below).

Our trips are exclusive to current, fully paid-up members. We organise worthwhile programmes and itineraries utilising our unique professional network and charge our members for their participation at cost. If you are interested in participating in future fact-finding trips, please join our organisation, by contacting [email protected] today.

AgTech Ireland Oireachtas Lobbying Session: Changed approach on farmer VAT will lead to job losses, damage climate and sustainability ambitions

Minister of State at DAFM Martin Heydon engages with AgTech Ireland Chairperson Padraig Hennessy and representatives of member companies. A good number of other TDs, Senators, Ministers and Party Spokespeople also engaged over the lobbying evening session.

AgTech Ireland has warned Oireachtas members that the Revenue’s U-turn on the VAT refund to unregistered farmers investing in essential structural farm equipment will cost rural Ireland jobs and runs counter to national agri-sustainability policy.

Originally planned to raise awareness of how a strongly supported, cohesive agtech industry evolves with agriculture’s needs; and supports farmers in delivering on their legal climate, water quality and other environmental obligations, our 12th December lobbying session quickly focused on the biggest issue of the moment: the U-turn by Revenue on the VAT refunds which for decades have been granted to VAT-unregistered farmers (the vast majority) who are investing in structural equipment on their farms.

AgTech Ireland Chairperson Padraig Hennessy and a number of member companies representatives including Lely, Pearson Milking Technology, MSD Animal Health Ireland, Cormac Tagging, Cotter Agritech, Dairy Robotics, Proveye, Herdwatch, ifac, Concept Dairy and Aon made it clear to the TDs, Senators, Ministers and Party Spokespeople who attended that the move was wreaking havoc on agricultural machinery, technology, and innovation companies’ order books as well as farmers’ investment planning.

With tax, farming and technical expertise from ifac and the Irish Farmers Association, we have established there has been no change to legislation, nor will the move save Exchequer funds. The refund under this scheme, together with all unclaimable VAT paid on inputs by unregistered farmers, are offset in the annual calculation of the flat-rate VAT refund all farmers receive on their produce sales.
The Revenue move amounts to taking funds out of a targeted scheme which,together with TAMS has enabled farmers to better finance sustainability driven investment, to instead increase the blanket, flat VAT refund worth a cent or two on each kilo or litre of produce to all farmers.

This incomprehensible revenue neutral move has many damaging consequences which run counter to government policy, especially when it comes to improving adoption of practices and technologies for sustainability and climate efficiency on farms and the promotion of quality employment in rural areas.

Investment planning by farmers to install a more energy efficient milk tank, or a time saving automatic scraper, or a lower emission piece of machinery would have factored in the VAT refund and TAMS grant where applicable. Their legitimate expectation has been thwarted and their financial planning thrown. Many suppliers of agtech equipment and machinery report order cancellations which leave them with dwindling order books requiring changed staff rotas or even layoffs.

Next steps 👣 :

The VAT issue is now being articulated by a large number of farming and agricultural bodies as well as AgTech Ireland. We are aware that the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture has discussed the issue and is looking for clarification from the Minister for Finance and Revenue. Our members impressed on politicians that Finance Minister Michael McGrath TD must immediately establish the reason for this move and ensure a return to a VAT policy coherent with our legally binding sustainability targets for agriculture and our rural employment ambitions. AgTech Ireland will seek to document the impact on members’ order books and businesses of this approach over the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, we have shared our lobbying document with all public representatives, and will continue to campaign on this topic and follow developments closely. 

AgTech Ireland/AgriTech New Zealand joint Summit: Shared Ground

For the second year running, AgTech Ireland and AgriTech New Zealand collaborated to propose a great agtech webinar with experts from both countries, which took place virtually on 31st October 2023.

Introduced by AgriTech New Zealand CEO Brendan O’Connell, the Summit was jointly opened by New Zealand Ambassador to Ireland Trevor Mallard and Ireland’s Deputy Head of Mission in New Zealand Paul O’Hara.

It gave a voice to Farmers, Researchers, Innovators and Investors from both countries, who each gave their reflections on what agtech means to them, and how they see future trends developing in that space and Ireland’s and New Zealand’s agricultures strive to achieve their economic, social and environmental sustainability targets.

If you missed the event, you can check it out by clicking here.

AgTech Ireland sponsor at Better Farming Awards

The Better Farming Awards, presented on 30th November at the Heritage Hotel Killenard, in Co. Laois, were a great celebration of the good things that are happening in the agricultural, agtech and scientific space to make food production more sustainable.
We are particularly proud to have sponsored the Best Agritech Software, Hardware and Science Products Awards.

We want to congratulate all the finalists, who have all developed valuable products and services to support the agriculture sector and farmers in their efforts to improve the economic resilience and environmental sustainability of their businesses.

Special congratulations to the winners of our sponsored categories:

AgTech Ireland Board member Sean Smith presents the Better Farming Award for Best Hardware product to Mary Pilkington of Agri Data Analytics.

AgTech Ireland Board member Deirdre O’Shea presents the Better Farming Award for Best Science Product to Brett Wesley of Brandon Bioscience.

AgTech Ireland Board member Sean Smith presents the Better Farming Award for Best Software Product to James Greevy of Herdwatch.

We wish the very best of business success to all the finalists. You can check them all out as well as the full results here.

Some of our plans for 2024

  • Spring conference on the use of AI in agtech, with support from one of the large tech companies.

  • Meet our Members! Section of AgTech Ireland website to go live, with “Member of the Month” to be showcased on our social media platforms.

  • Virtual information session for AgTech Ireland members with DAFM TAMS division on how TAMS operates.

  • Collaboration with Business France for networking visits by French companies to Ireland with a return itinerary for AgTech Ireland members to France around a major agricultural event.

  • Information session with Business France for AgTech Ireland members on supports available to firms considering doing business in France.

  • Nurturing our formalised relationship with DAFM, including input on agrifood research and innovation strategy

  • Meetings with trade delegations to Ireland and participation in international trade missions

  • Secure AgTech Ireland’s presence at prominent agri-events to promote our members and their innovations

  • Organise ICBF/AgTech Ireland workshop to promote the sharing of data and interoperability.

  • Host EI/AgTech Ireland discussion groups to encourage networking and collaboration within the industry.

  • Continue sharing regular agtech newsletters and invite members to contribute with content.

  • Continue advocating for our sector and enhance the visibility of AgTech Ireland.

  • Host an agtech trade event with a media partner to promote the latest innovations and solutions.

  • Organise networking events for members to facilitate communication, collaboration and exchange of knowledge.

  • Expand membership among start-ups and established businesses, within agriculture and adjacent industries.

In Brief

AgTech Ireland Chairperson on For Tech’s Sake!

“For a sustainable future, farmers need to learn to work smarter, not harder. They will have to take on new technologies but will need training to do so. Investors expect quick returns, but technology adoption on farms is a very slow process –we need patient investors with a better understanding of the sector. We also need to be weary of tech for tech’s sake – first question to ask when faced with an expensive, shiny “solution” – “is there a problem it is solving?”

Listen now to our Chairperson Padraig Hennessy, guest on this For Techs’ Sake Podcast all about smart farming. (click on image to listen).

AgTech Ireland engages with Department of Agriculture

On the strength of the relationship of trust established by AgTech Ireland with the Department of Agriculture, our COO Catherine Lascurettes was invited to address the DAFM Agriculture, Environment and Structures Division annual staff conference on 29th November 2023 on the role of agtech in supporting farming sustainability.  These are the officials and inspectors who operate TAMS and ACRES as well as other CAP schemes, and decide on farms, farm buildings and equipment eligibility.

This provided good insights into the challenges and opportunities facing Irish farming, and a great opportunity to engage with the people who manage first-hand the operation of CAP schemes on the ground.

Catherine will also now represent AgTech Ireland on the newly established DAFM AKIS Co-ordination Group, which will form part of the formal national consultative structure put in place to promote and support Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems development in the context of CAP and Food Vision 2030 implementation and monitoring in Ireland

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]

AgTech Ireland Members' Questions

Are you a member or thinking about joining AgTech Ireland? Check out some of the commonly asked questions below.

Why join AgTech Ireland?

  • To access a network of like-minded agribusiness leaders
  • To contribute to and benefit from advocacy and lobbying campaigns
  • To attend exclusive agriculture industry events and stakeholder meetings
  • To have the opportunity to join trade missions with global leaders &politicians
  • To stay in the loop with the latest news and insights
  • To be part of the unified voice for agtech in Ireland and ensure its visibility

What is the best way to utilise my AgTech Ireland membership?

  • Engage with us
  • Keep a close eye on our communications – direct emails, quarterly newsletters such as this one, social media platforms, mainstream media articles – to find out about our events.
  • Make sure to come along to maximise the opportunities.
  • Review the member network.There may be opportunities to work with other members to enhance your business.
  • Don’t be afraid to connect on LinkedIn or drop them an email to explore opportunities.
  • Come forward with ideas. If you have something you feel is important and could benefit the wider sector, reach out to our COO Catherine Lascurettes or one of our Executive Council members.

What other organisations are AgTech Ireland looking to collaborate with?

  • At home we are engaged with the Department of Agriculture, Teagasc as well as Enterprise Ireland.
  • We collaborate with UCD AgriTech, the MTU AgriTech Ireland Cluster. We are also looking to work with ICBF, VistaMilk and other domestic organisations in the agricultural sector.
  • There are still more opportunities to be explored with government agencies and private organisations as we develop over the coming year.
  • Abroad we have signed an MOU with AgriTech New Zealand to identify collaborative opportunities for members
  • We are exploring collaboration opportunities with Business France UK and Ireland.
  • Our plan is to create further opportunities internationally utilising our own network, the Enterprise Ireland international network and organisations similar to AgTech Ireland in key markets.

Should you wish to join AgTech Ireland, email [email protected]

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