Arena Awards recognise innovation in agriculture

Fertiliser that cuts nitrogren without a yield penalty names overall winner
Arena Awards recognise innovation in agriculture

Paddy Casey, Target Fertilisers; James Maloney, Enterprise Ireland and Oliver Kiernan, Brandon Bioscience and the Innovation Arena Awards.

The Terra range of fertilisers with potential to reduce chemical nitrogen input on farms as much as 20%, without a crop yield penalty, is the overall winner in Enterprise Ireland's 2021 Innovation Arena Awards.

It also won the Sustainable Agriculture Award category award, for Brandon Bioscience, a marine biotech company in Tralee, Co Kerry, which collaborated with manufacturer Target Fertilisers, to produce the fertiliser with Brandon’s innovative biostimulant product based on extracts from common brown seaweed.

The award winners for the most innovative Irish agritech and agri-engineering products were announced at the National Ploughing Championships by Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English.

The best overall start-up award went to Jennifer and Kevin Corley, founders of EquiTrace, an app that works with a horse’s microchip to identify, locate and track individual animals, while recording animal temperature and health records, when used with a Merck Bio-Thermo chip and scanner.

The Co Kildare based company recently announced a strategic US partnership with Merck Animal Health. According to Merck, the EquiTrace smartphone app can be used by the horse care team to securely update and access each horse’s GPS location and medical record in one convenient location, and it works in conjunction with Merck’s Bio-Thermo microchips, allowing horse care professionals to instantly read, graph and monitor a horse’s temperature.

Kevin Corley said the EquiTrace Bio-Thermo combination enables rapid identification of temperature fluctuations in a horse, essential in managing infectious diseases such as equine herpesvirus, influenza and strangles, without stressing the horse.

The overall and best start-up award winners each received €5,000 each.

There were 14 category winners.

The Agricultural Engingeering Award and ACE Agritech Centre of Excellence Award went to Samco Agricultural, Co Limerick, for their new narrow version of their degradable mulch film used by growers of maize and other crops to trap warmth and moisture to boost growth of the young plants.

The narrow film allows for reduced film per hectare, is less prone to wind damage in exposed sites, it is faster to lay, and allows for companion crops between maize rows, as well as reducing pre-emergent herbicide use.

It is likely to be aimed primarily at maize growers not just in Ireland, but in Scotland and the Nordic countries.

The Agritech Start-up Award went to a Co Cork company, ApisProtect.

In 2017, CEO Dr Fiona Edwards Murphy developed her award-winning PhD project at University College Cork into a bee monitoring early warning system for commercial or hobbyist beekeepers.

Dr Murphy and c-founder Dr Pádraig Whelan lead ApisProtect, which employs eight engineers, scientists and business development experts, based in the Rubicon Centre in the Munster Technological University.

The ApisProtect wireless in-hive device contains sensors for hive temperature, movement, humidity, and sound, collecting and transmitting data to provide actionable insights to beekeepers in real-time.

Beekeepers receive smart alerts on the condition of their hives, identification of problem colonies, and suggested actions to keep bee colonies healthy -- all without disturbing the hives.

With a market of 18m hobby beekeepers in Europe, and bees an important pollinator of much of the world’s food crops, there is huge potential for ApisProtect products.

The Agritech Established Company Award went to Alltech, the multinational company with its European headquarters in Co Meath, for the company’s InTouch system.

Every day, ‘InTouch’ manages the feeding of over 300,000 animals on 2,000 farms across the globe, representing one of the world’s largest feed efficiency databases, helping the farmer decide what and how to feed. Intouch can be retrofitted to any feeder wagon.

The Agri-safety Award went for Calving Assist, the invention of Cashel, Co Tipperary dairy farmer Jim Ryan. After seeing powerline workers climbing poles with a strap aid, he created Calving Assist, which he hoped would prevent back pain while calving cows.

Incorporating a strap around the farmer’s back, it is designed to harness the extra power, strength and control in the leg muscles, rather than using the arms and upper back to pull a calf, which can cause injury.

Retailing for about €140, it has two metal grapples to hold the calving ropes in place, and a lever pull to release the belt if the user has to move rapidly.

The One to Watch Award went to Slurryquip, Co Down, for their NPaK liquid fertiliser spreading system, designed to allow farmers reduce fertiliser, reduce losses, speed up fertiliser uptake, and increase grass growth, by combining the fertiliser spreading operation with slurry spreading.

This fertiliser injection system mixes liquid fertiliser with slurry. Reduced volatilisation loss of nitrogen to the atmosphere, and reduced leaching are among the claimed advantages.

The Young Innovator of the Year award went to Carbon Harvesters, Dublin, which monitors greenhouse gas emissions on farms and certifies verified emissions reductions, so that farmers can monetise them as market premiums or through the carbon offsets market.

The ifac Best Newcomer Award went to Moonsyst International, Cork.

Their main product is a maintenance-free bolus, ready to use out of the box, easily swallowed by cattle, which will stay in the animal’s reticulum for the lifetime.

The Moonsyst Monitoring System collects temperature and movement data from the animal which farmers can access anywhere, anytime. It can identify and predict when the animal is in heat and ready for insemination, and provides a calving alert.

There is also advance warning of health concerns, and monitoring of drinking behaviour.

The On Farm Innovation Award (Alfie Cox Founder’s Perpeptual Trophy) went to Crushmate.

Costing €325 direct from the company in Co Laois, this animal handling device is an accessory fixed on the inside of crushes, chutes or races, for immobilising smaller animals.

By narrowing the crush, it restricts the side to side movement of the animal being treated. It can also be used in training heifers for robotic milking systems.

The UCD Lyons Agritech Award was awarded for FodderBox, Cork. The Carrigtwohil based company’s standard unit produces one ton of fresh fodder per day hydroponically (which means growing plants in a nutrient-rich solution without soil).

But units can be sized to meet the needs of any operation, from a backyard farm up.

According to the company, two tons of HydroFodder costs €100 to produce, and it replaces one ton of feed which costs €300.

For the second year in a row, the 2021 Enterprise Ireland Innovation Arena Awards in association with the National Ploughing Association (NPA), took place online, with shortlisted innovators pitching their pioneering designs to a virtual judging panel over the course of two days.

More than 50 entries were received for this year’s awards competition, with 28 selected for virtual pitching. Leo Clancy, CEO, Enterprise Ireland, said, “The strong themes emerging from this year’s Innovation Arena Award entries are a focus on farm efficiency and a concentration on how to protect our natural resources.” National Ploughing Association Managing Director, Anna May McHugh said the NPA was delighted to partner again with Enterprise Ireland for the awards.

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