Hogan visits Beotanics – the company bringing sweet potatoes from Kilkenny to the world

Beotanics – an Irish company which supplies seeds and roots for niche food products worldwide – is investing €1 million in a new research and development centre at its headquarters in Stoneyford, Co. Kilkenny.

Owned by Pat Fitzgerald, Beotanics is a spin-out from Pat’s business originally set up in 1990 and it has led the way in Europe in the development of niche crops – such as sweet potato, yacon and wasabi.

Beotanics has been investing in sweet potato research since 2006.

Since Beotanics invested in sweet potato production, consumption of the crop has grown more than tenfold.

Also Read: Tillage focus: Potato business gets ‘sweet’ in order to meet demand

€1 million investment

The €1 million investment will allow Beotanics to work on a further series of crops by applying traditional breeding techniques and leveraging international breeder collaborations – which have been a key part of the company’s success to date. At present Beotanics employs 43 people.

A plant-science laboratory, quarantine and research and development greenhouse will all be part of the new plan.

The European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, visited Beotanics today, April 24, to meet with Pat and Nóírín Fitzgerald.

Sweet potatoes at Teagasc’s Kildalton Agricultural College

“Beotanics is now a key Irish player on the international stage in discovering new ways to feed the planet, improve human health, balance resources, enhance biodiversity and reduce the environmental impact of crop production.

It is a true example of a firm which is acting local and thinking global and, by doing so, providing locally innovative, viable and sustainable rural development alternatives.

“It is growing the Irish rural economy on the strength of Irish environmental factors,” Commissioner Hogan commented.

He added: “Their work showcases Ireland and Europe as a leading global innovator in producing crops in a natural, transparent and fair way to enhance taste, appearance and nutritional value.”

Beotanics is both working with and visiting growers and farmers in Ireland, Hawaii, the Middle East, Africa, the Caribbean, the US, Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan and other European countries.

Donald Black, the manager of Core Unit at Enterprise Ireland, added that the new research and development centre “demonstrates Beotanics’ highly-innovative culture which has allowed the company to grow its reputation internationally in niche food production and horticultural expertise”.

Last year AgriLand also visited Teagasc’s Kildalton Agricultural College where a sweet potato crop is grown by O’Shea Farms. The seed and agronomy advice is provided by Beotanics.

‘We want to be the go-to experts’

Owner Pat Fitzgerald stated: “We want to be the go-to experts for our chosen crops and targeted evolving food ingredients and new variety development with added nutrition and bio-actives.

The future of food is readjusting to become more plant-based. We’ve specialised in plant production development for over 25 years and this is a necessary natural progression for the business.

“Everything we do comes from a social need. We’re pro-balance. We want to bring more complementary options into the food chain that are vegetable and plant-based and widen the Irish and European opportunity in crop production rotations.

Pat FitzGerald, founder and CEO at Beotanics, pictured with Dr Maria Angelica Sandoval at Beotanics. The Kilkenny-based firm is growing international reputation for innovation in niche food crop production across the world and is investing €1 million in a new research and development centre at its headquarters in Stoneyford, Co Kilkenny. Image source: Dylan Vaughan

“Our plant science, agronomy and food teams collaborate to harness and optimise what nature offers and deliver and support it in the best possible way.

“Our own and our international network of plant scientists are discovering and developing plant varieties with exceptional ingredients. There is potential to work with growers and farmers for local adaptation.

Our food scientists will add further to what we do by optimising that plants’ natural potential into high-value food ingredients.

“Beotanics is passionate about sourcing and cultivating rare or forgotten crops and crop varieties that have latent potential,” FitzGerald added.

Beotanics works with many organisations in Ireland and abroad including: Teagasc; Enterprise Ireland; UCC; UCD; TCD; Shannon ABC at Limerick IT; and Louisiana State University in the USA.