St. Patrick’s Day is synonymous with eating corned beef cabbage and drinking green beer, but it also gives us an opportunity to take a look at some of the latest agritech innovations coming out of the Emerald Isle. With the country’s first agtech conference taking place on March 29, 2017, in Dublin, and the launch of a new startup accelerator program last month, backed by what’s probably the country’s biggest agritech achievement Alltech, there’s even more reason to shine a spotlight on Ireland’s advancements this week.
It’s no wonder that agritech has found a home in the Land of Enchantment. Agriculture is a significant economic priority for the EU-member state with roughly 8.6 percent of its population employed by the industry. Beef and milk production are the two largest products for Ireland, accounting for roughly 60% of its agricultural output. According to government reports, the country exports about 90% of its net beef output making it the largest beef exporter in Europe. It also exports roughly 85% of its dairy products. In 2011, the value of Irish food and drink exports totaled nearly $9.6 billion.
Other accelerator programs have planted roots in Ireland. RebelBio (formerly IndieBio EU) is an SOSV-backed seed-stage biotech accelerator offering $250,000 to accelerate biotech businesses in four months, with several agriculture-focused graduates. The accelerator hosts the program in “Carbon Valley,” Cork City, which has been dubbed a startup-friendly and emerging life sciences hub.
In 2016, one of the oldest agritech accelerator programs in the US, The Yield Lab, launched a program in Galway, Ireland, to invest €100k in eight to 12 startups over the next two years. The accelerator chose Ireland as a key access point for European deal flow and to cultivate a stronger presence in the region.
So, before your Guinness buzz kicks in, the rugby game starts, and the Irish drinking songs take over the airwaves, get yourself up to speed on how Ireland’s startup scene is making big moo-ves, particularly in animal health technology, food waste, and big data.
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Animal Health & Nutrition
- Moocall, a Dublin-based company, has created wearable sensors for cows that measure activity levels and send alerts to busy farmers when the cow is getting ready to deliver a calf. It is now taking part in Alltech’s new program, The Pearse Lyons Accelerator.
- Hexafly, based in County Meath, is farming black solider fly to manufacture products for the aqua feed, plant nutrition, food ingredient and cosmetic industries. Enterprise Ireland and SOSV participated in its May 2016 $100,000 seed round. Enterprise Ireland is the government agency responsible for developing and promoting Ireland’s business sector.
- Cainthus, based out of Dublin, but also Ottawa in Canada, and San Francisco, is a global computer vision technology company using predictive imaging analysis to monitor the health and well-being of livestock. It monitors cows’ feed and water intake, for example.
- Nuritas, another Dublin-based company, is a bioinformatics technology company specializing in the discovery of peptides that can benefit nutrition and health, as well as cosmetics. It recently won a grant from the European Union to develop a natural ingredient that can tackle diabetes. It also completed a $3.2 million seed round with New Protein Capital, a Singapore-based investment company backing food and feed startups. We wrote about them here.
- MicroSynbiotiX, a Cork County-based company, is creating a novel oral delivery process for fish. It’s is using genetically modified microalgae as the vaccine delivery vehicle for farmed fish. It recently won the Nutreco Feed Tech Challenge. Read more here.
- FruitCubed, based in County Cork, aims to disrupt the existing fruit and vegetable waste paradigm through innovative natural products that enhance the convenience of today’s consumer requirements. It participated in food tech accelerator Food-X’s fifth cohort and snagged a $50,000 seed investment.
- Gilfresh Produce, based in County Armagh, manages over 2,500 acres of field vegetables and salad crops in Ireland and added an anaerobic digester to its operation in 2016. The machine generates enough energy to power the farm and any excess energy is sold back to the power grid. The company is backed by Copenhagen-based European financial enterprise Danske Bank.
- Obeo, based in Dublin, has created what it describes as a mess-free and convenient way to recycle food waste using an all-in-one compostable food waste box that collects vegetable peelings, food scraps, and other discarded edibles for repurposing.
- MilisBio is developing a sugar substitute from protein that will boast the same sweet taste without the health implications. The company snagged a seed investment from SOSV as an IndieBio participant in May 2016. It hopes to eventually apply the same method of protein design to other flavors such as saltiness without salt, bitter taste blockers for medicines and so on.
- Anu Dairy, based in Cork County, is creating the world’s first premium, Vitamin K2 butter. Another Indie Bio participant and SOSV-backed company, it uses organic milk to make the butter, which has many roles including the ability to direct calcium into your bones and away from soft tissues including your Heart.
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