Ireland’s AgTechUCD Innovation Centre has announced the eight start-ups selected to participate in University College Dublin’s new accelerator programme for early-stage AgTech and FoodTech start-up companies. They include developers of livestock and crop monitoring solutions, a sustainable fodder production system and an autonomous poultry robot which collects eggs.
Commencing this week, the inaugural 2021 ‘Agccelerator’ Programme (see what they did there) will run as an intensive 12-week virtual programme. The fast-track schedule will include dedicated business development workshops and investor readiness training, mentoring from AgTech and FoodTech experts and business advisors, guest speakers and include facilitated introductions to AgTechUCD’s venture capital and business angel networks.
Based at UCD Lyons Farm and part of NovaUCD, AgTechUCD is focused on accelerating the launch and scaling of AgTech and FoodTech start-ups in Ireland and has been funded through the Regional Enterprise Development Fund administered by Enterprise Ireland. Consequently the eight chosen start-ups are mostly located in Ireland and Northern Ireland with one based in Tunisia.
The participating AgTechUCD Agccelerator Programme start-ups
Cotter Agritech is developing the Cotter Crate, a novel sheep handling and monitoring system to transform how sheep farmers care for their animals. The Cotter Crate combines hardware, which addresses animal handling and labour issues, with novel software that addresses anthelmintic (or wormer) resistance. This enables farmers to move from treating all sheep to only drenching sheep that require treatment. The founders of Cotter Agritech, based in Limerick, are brothers Jack and Nick Cotter.
CropHound uses remote sensors and AI to monitor crop health, growing conditions and crop potential from planting to harvest giving early insights and recommendations to users. CropHound enables farmers and growers to increase yields and decrease their costs and carbon footprint through reductions in chemical usage and unnecessary trips to check crops. The founder of CropHound, based in Belfast, is Mark Elliott.
FodderBox has developed and built a fully-fitted, self-contained, computer-controlled fodder production system that arrives on-site, ready to plug-and-play. Sustainably producing a ton of fresh premium fodder per day, in pure water, FodderBox – A Field In a Box – is the equivalent of a 40-acre field in a 40’ container, with zero water pollution, zero air pollution, zero herbicides, zero pesticides, and zero insecticides. The founder of FodderBox, based in Cork, is Ella Goddin.
Freshgraze has developed a robotic moving fence and management system which portions out new pasture to grazing animals as they require it. By constantly allocating small portions of fresh grass it ensures that the animals do not walk on or soil the food they are about to eat, enabling farmers to obtain the best utilisation of their grassland. The founders of Freshgraze, based in Co. Westmeath, are Thomas Drumm and his sons Charlie and James.
Izario has developed an autonomous poultry robot that operates in broiler-breeder and commercial egg-laying hen houses. Using custom built proprietary AI and computer vision software the robot detects eggs laid on the floor by birds and retrieves them reducing labour inputs. The robot also monitors the birds’ welfare and environmental status of the sheds to allow farmers/producers to make informed decisions based on data. The founders of Izario, based in Galway, are Raymond Heneghan and Stepan Dzhanov.
Niskus BioTec is focused on the provision of innovative products and services to the agri-food and biotech sectors in fungal large-scale solid-state fermentation. The company works with customers to select the most suitable fungal strains for their process and growing media and to develop and scale-up new fungal derived high-value products such as proteins, enzymes and intermediates. The founder of Niskus BioTec, based in Donegal, is Vincent Farrelly.
ProvEye, a spin-out from the UCD School of Biosystems and Food Engineering, provides advanced processing software to derive quantitative data from images, collected by drones and other platforms, at unprecedent levels of accuracy, which can be used to create actionable management decisions in agriculture and other industries. The firm won funding from the European Space Agency in August. The founders of ProvEye, based in Dublin, are Dr Jerome O’Connell and Dr Nick Holden.
SmartBeeKeeper is developing SmartBee a cutting-edge hardware and software platform to enable beekeepers to monitor and track their beehives. SmartBeeKeeper also provides access to a luxury and traceable honey marketplace. The founder of SmartBeeKeeper, based in Tunisia, is Khaled Bouchoucha.
AgTechUCD Innovation Centre – Supporting Commercial Development
AgTechUCD’s focus is supporting founding entrepreneurs as they build their innovative businesses into leading enterprises, though the AgTechUCD Agccelerator Programme, and by providing access to incubation space and to on-farm testing for new products and services at UCD Lyons Farm.
“During the next 12-weeks the AgTechUCD Agccelerator programme will focus on supporting the commercial development of the eight participating start-ups. Through the programme we will also be working with the start-ups to help increase their visibility in the marketplace, attract new customers and investors and forge new partnerships” said Niamh Collins, Manager, AgTechUCD Innovation Centre.
“AgTechUCD has already established key relationships with strategic players in the agtech and foodtech sectors in Ireland, across Europe and in the US, which will now leverage to support the participating start-ups to launch their products or services into new territories. We now look forward to working with our first cohort on our inaugural AgTechUCD Agccelerator Programme.” she added.
The AgTechUCD Agccelerator Programme will conclude in early-December when participating start-ups will pitch their businesses to a panel of investors with the opportunity to be awarded prize funding in a number of award categories.