“This year interest has already been strong with enquiries from all sectors, despite living with Covid-19 for the last few months,” says Enterprise Ireland’s James Maloney, who is the project manager for the annual Innovation Arena at the National Ploughing Championships.

He believes that the online Innovation Arena Awards will remain the focal point for the ag-tech sector in Ireland this year. Last year, Enterprise Ireland hosted 109 international buyers from across the globe to look at the latest in Irish ag-tech innovation at the National Ploughing Championships event.

The Innovation Arena itself is innovating, to deliver the 10th Innovation Arena in a safe and efficient manner in these challenging times.

James Maloney from Enterprise Ireland added: “Unfortunately, the buzz of attending the Innovation Arena at the National Ploughing Championships will never be replicated in an online competition.

“What it will achieve, however, is recognition of the innovative and entrepreneurial activity that is driving forward this country despite Covid-19.

Many Enterprise Ireland companies have adjusted to deliver success, whether it has been developing important PPE [personal protective equipment], or ensuring that vital food and industry services remain open. This resilience is particularly evident in the agri-community.

Now open for entries, the 2020 Innovation Arena Award categories include best agri-technology start-up, best agri-engineering established company, young innovator of the year and best agri-environmental enterprise.

The best start-up and overall winner of the Innovation Arena Awards will be eligible to win up to €5,000 each. Last year’s competition attracted almost 100 entries. 50 were shortlisted as finalists and invited to exhibit at the Innovation Arena at the National Ploughing Championships.

Winners of this year’s awards will be automatically eligible to exhibit in the ‘2020 Winners Enclosure Section’ at the Innovation Arena in 2021.

Over the last 10 years, innovative products showcased at the Innovation Arena from leading companies such as Dairymaster, Samco, Malone, Moocall, Herdwatch and Cross Engineering have gone on to achieve global success.

The beauty of this competition is the unearthing of pioneering technology and innovations like Magrow with their novel spraying technology and last year’s winners of the Alfie Cox Trophy ‘The Cotter Crate’ who have designed a new approach to sheep handling.

On an annual basis, Enterprise Ireland is working with around 5,000 companies through a network of market and sector advisors based across 10 national offices and 40 international offices.

“This illustrates why we can help take an innovative company and create the opportunities for them to achieve their global ambition and deliver global success,” explains James.

L-R: Jack and Nick Cotter, The Cotter Crate, winners of the agri-engineering start-up and best start-up innovation awards 2019; with Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland; and Anna May McHugh, managing director, the National Ploughing Association

Ireland’s ag-tech advantage

Internationally, Ireland has a reputation for strong well-made efficient machines, especially in grass and material handling. Adding to this trait is the reputation that Irish companies have in business, providing strong technical back-up and support across the world.

Last year, Enterprise Ireland hosted its second pavilion at Agritechnica, the world’s largest trade fair for farm equipment. Industry stalwarts such as McHale and Dairymaster have already paved the way for Irish companies in many markets.

It is an opportune time for the next wave of Irish companies to increase their market potential, according to James.

“The Irish agritech sector is in a very good place,” he adds. “The industry now employs in the region of 4,300 people with most of those jobs located in the regions.

“The sector plays a critical role in underpinning the competitiveness of Ireland’s food industry and is now shifting through the gears to keep pace with advances being made globally. 2018 saw agritech investment rise above the €2 billion mark for the first time with Irish technology being very much part of the global agritech journey.”

Minister Heather Humphreys TD with Stephen Creaner, executive director, Enterprise Ireland, at the Combilift stand in the Innovation Arena 2019

Entrepreneurial spirit

Every big company started as a small company at some stage. The Innovation Arena aims to find those people with entrepreneurial talent and the ambition to grow into a business.

Farmers are extremely resourceful at coping with multiple tasks simultaneously. This often leads to an idea or problem-solving device that really works. If it solves a problem on one farm, then it’s very likely that the same problem exists on many more farms. The online Innovation Arena is an ideal platform to showcase this talent, for 2020.

Online entries are now being accepted for the Innovation Arena Awards 2020; for more information, just click here

The closing date is Friday, July 10, 2020.