One of the most anticipated dates in the Irish agricultural calendar, the National Ploughing Championships, has recently become a major showcase for some of the country’s most intriguing agritech companies.

This year’s Enterprise Ireland Innovation Arena Awards were a perfect example of the pioneering technology and ideas on display. The awards celebrate the innovative agritech and engineering developments in the sector.

The overall winner of the awards this year was Agri-Spread International, a leading Irish agricultural machinery manufacturer involved in designing and manufacturing next-generation precision fertiliser and lime-spreading equipment.

More than 90pc of production at Agri-Spread International is sold into major markets including Canada, the UK and Australia. The newest development integrates GPS tracking with weight sensing, and sectional and variable rate control into the machine. This aims to maximise crop yield with minimal fertiliser or lime inputs.

Other winners included FreshGraze, an automated moving fence system that allocates fresh grass to grazing animals and provides flexibility when it comes to grassland management. Another innovation, Acidose 1, is a device that regulates water pH for poultry houses, helping to reduce the need for antibiotics in poultry farming.

International buyers to see what’s on offer

2018’s Innovation Arena, in conjunction with the National Ploughing Association and the Irish Farmers Journal, features groundbreaking agricultural products and innovations from 60 Irish agri-companies. More than 100 international buyers from regions such as China, Australia and the eurozone will be visiting the arena to get a feel for Ireland’s agricultural innovations.

50 exhibitors were selected from 120 applications, and a number of overseas companies with products new to the Irish market also featured this year at the National Ploughing Championships. All 50 successfully completed the Bootcamp Innovation Challenge held in August to prepare for this week’s arena showcase. The total prize fund this year is in excess of €80,000, including a prize worth more than €15,000 for the most innovative start-up.

Announcing the winners, Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection Pat Breen, TD, said: “Ireland is fast establishing itself as a global agritech innovation hub and the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Arena Awards successfully showcase the future of agritech and place Irish agri-innovations on a world stage.

“Exports are vital to the agricultural sector, and farming and agribusiness are the heartbeat of the rural Irish economy, providing employment opportunities for over 250,000 people spread geographically around the country.”

Dr Tom Kelly, divisional manager of innovation and competitiveness at Enterprise Ireland, said: “2018 marks our fifth year co-hosting the Innovation Arena and each year we see remarkable progress in the innovative agri-products and services on display. These advances are reflected in today’s Innovation Arena Awards, which showcase the high level of innovation within the Irish agritech sector.”

National Ploughing Association managing director Anna May McHugh noted: “The phenomenal achievements of the previous years’ winners are an utter testament that the entrepreneurial spark is alive and flourishing in Ireland.”

Eoin Lowry, deputy editor of the Irish Farmers Journal, said: “The Irish Farmers Journal recognises the need for innovation in agriculture where, globally, Ireland has a reputation as a leader in this field, and the Innovation Arena highlights the change and development occurring within the sector.”

Ellen Tannam

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