A vertical farming company and a plant-based nutrition company are among the 31 finalists for this year’s National Enterprise Awards which were announced today (Tuesday, May 24) in Dublin.

The Local Enterprise Office (LEO) initiative, now in its 22nd year, will take place on June 2, 2022 at the Mansion House in Dublin.  

The finalists, who were all selected by their LEO as the most exceptional company in their local area for this year, represent a diverse range of businesses from all across the country.

The awards will focus on specific areas such as Innovation, Start-Ups and Exporting along with eight regional awards as well as an overall National Enterprise Awards winner.

Finalists for National Enterprise Awards

The finalists, who will compete for a €50,000 prize fund, include a plant-based nutrition company (Phytaphix – LEO Louth) and a sustainable vertical farming business (Farmony – LEO Fingal).

This year sees the introduction of two new awards with the ‘One To Watch Award’ that will be given to an up and coming business which has big plans for the future and the ‘Green/Sustainability Award’ for the company who has been outstanding in its commitment to sustainability.

There will also be an ‘Outstanding Achievement Award’ given to person or company who have achieved exception success in the business world.

Padraic McElwee, chair of the network of Local Enterprise Offices, said: “These awards are an opportunity for us to celebrate and reward some of Ireland’s most outstanding small businesses.

“They have endured two of the most challenging economic years and having negotiated that, are coming out stronger and looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.

“We have a fantastic array of finalists from all sectors with some great success stories. We look forward to crowning our winners this year and irrespective of who wins, all these businesses are in a strong position to grow and succeed in the coming years.”

Reaching the final: (l-r) Ann Rudden, founder of Áines Chocolates – Cavan; Dr. Conor Kerley, founder of Phytafix – Louth; Dan O’Brien, CEO of Farmony – Fingal; John Brennan, CEO of Blakes Always Organic – Leitrim; Joan Nagle, director of Connemara Carpets – Galway; Oisín Geoghegan, Local Enterprise Office Fingal; Jason Frehill, director of services, South Dublin County Council; Tom Draths, O’Connell Whiskey -Waterford; Carol Gibbons, Enterprise Ireland; John Nagle, director of Connemara Carpets, Galway; Siobhan Leonard, co-founder of Acorn Star – Kildare; Cathal Leonard, co-founder of Acornstar, Kildare. Image: Julien Behal Photography.

Previous winners

Previous winners of the National Enterprise Awards include Irish Yoghurts (1998); Obelisk (2000); Simtech Aviation (2008); Digiweb (2004); and Design Pro (2013); Terra NutriTech (2018); and Pestle & Mortar (2019).

The last winners in 2021 were Bevcraft, who were supported by Local Enterprise Office Westmeath.

The National Enterprise Awards are one of a number of initiatives that the LEOs run, to foster entrepreneurship across the country.

Others include Local Enterprise Week, the Student Enterprise Programme, National Women’s Enterprise Day and Local Enterprise Showcase. The Local Enterprise Offices in local authorities are funded by the Government of Ireland through Enterprise Ireland. 

Since their inception eight years ago, the LEOs have helped create over 20,000 jobs across the country.

The LEOs work with thousands of client companies across Ireland in a diverse range of sectors offering mentoring, training, expert advice and financial supports to small businesses.

Details of some of the finalists

Farmony – Local Enterprise Office Fingal

Farmony is an insight focused vertical farming company that delivers innovative technology, enabling customers to meet consumer demands for fresh, great tasting and pesticide free food, locally and sustainably year round. 

Phytaphix – Local Enterprise Office Louth

Phytaphix, is a multi-award winning supplier of functional foods and supplements based on proven clinical research by founder, Dr. Conor Kerley. Phytaphix won the 2021 World Food Innovation Award. The business is currently exporting to over 25 countries and are the only nutrition company that is 100% Irish owned, manufactured, packaged, using Irish ingredients and run by an Irish doctor.

Blakes Always Organic Ltd. – Local Enterprise Office Leitrim manufactures and distributes a range of premium organic dairy and coffee products for sale through independent and multiple retail channels in IOI. All products are manufactured and packaged in Leitrim. We have multiple new products in development and are exploring the EU for exporting opportunities.

Premier Fire Products – Local Enterprise Office Tipperary

Premier Fire products was established in 2014. We manufacture eco friendly fire lighters. Our product range includes traditional household fire lighters and BBQ fire lighters. All products are made from recycled wax and saw dust. Our retail under the brand name Waxies for the household fire lighters and WaxiStix for the BBQ Fire lighters.

O’Connell’s Whiskey – Local Enterprise Office Waterford

We are an independent bottler and bonder of premium small-batch spirits, especially Irish whiskey. We export into nine marketsbacross Ireland, Europe, the US and South Africa. Our warehouse and bottling line are in Kilmacthomas, Co. Waterford, next to the Waterford Greenway in a 19th century workhouse and store house.