The Irish AgTech sector is aiming to double its size in terms of employment and sales in the next decade, according to Kieran O’Donoghue of the AgriTech Cluster at Munster Technological University (MTU).
Data from Enterprise Ireland shows that the sector grew by 13% year-on-year in 2022.
Enterprise Ireland is working with the AgriTech Cluster, which is based in Tralee, Co. Kerry, to accelerate the pace of growth in the sector.
O’Donoghue, who is the educational outreach manager at the AgriTech Cluster, said that a lot of the growth potential is driven by “the need to make things easier to do” on farms.
“We look at the need to maybe automate some tasks because of reduction in availability of labour on the one hand. On the other hand, there’s the need now to be more conscious, and to have more practices that are having less impact on the environment.
“There’s a lot of early stage companies as well in the sector now. They’re looking to solve some of the challenges that farmers are having by developing new products and services to help farmers meet those challenges,” he told Agriland.
Companies are also adding features to existing products for increased precision and to help early decision-making on farms.
“There’s a lot going on in the sector. In order to develop these kinds of technologies, a lot of engagement is required to really understand the needs and then to try and develop solutions to fill those needs,” O’Donoghue said.
Among the challenges currently facing AgriTech companies in Ireland are high input costs, such as electricity, along with shortages in availability of labour.
“With those kinds of challenges that are affecting day-to-day operations, it’s sometimes difficult for companies to look at how do we actually develop the products and realise the projects that we need to do to meet these challenges and needs that are out there?
“What we’re seeing is because of the challenges it’s difficult for companies to take a step back and take a look at where the activities need to focus in order to be more competitive in Ireland, but also on the international marketplace as well.”
The AgriTech Cluster works with companies to build projects that can help them to innovate more and increase research and development.
They also help companies with their own processes in the business to be more productive and more streamlined in their approach.
“If you look at the profile in Ireland at the moment of companies across the AgriTech sector, the majority of companies would either be in the small size, [but] there’s a number of companies already in the medium size.
“We don’t have that many large companies in Ireland in the sector. That’s where we’d see the huge opportunity for companies to really grow in size and grow in impact globally.
“Certainly, we’d see that Ireland already hits pretty well internationally, but there’s opportunity for a lot more growth on an international scale,” he said.
AgriTech Ireland’s Industry Day takes place next Wednesday (March 29) from 11:00a.m-3:00p.m at the RDI Hub in Killorglin, Co. Kerry.
The event aims to inspire growth in the industry and is open to all AgTech stakeholders.
The keynote speaker will be Aidan Connolly, president of AgriTech Capital and author of The Future of Agriculture.
He will discuss the macro challenges of food security and climate change and demonstrate case studies and best practices to accelerate growth in AgriTech.
Enterprise Ireland will also outline the supports available to companies at any stage of their journey.
“The event is focused around industry and finding opportunities, unlocking opportunities, really to help the businesses to accelerate their growth. We’re connecting the businesses with knowledge providers and colleges,” O’Donoghue said.