Sunday 16 June 2019

Germany takes notice of a new crop of Irish agritech firms

Dairymaster technicians put the finishing touches to the latest bulk tank manufactured at the firm's plant in Causeway, Co Kerry
Dairymaster technicians put the finishing touches to the latest bulk tank manufactured at the firm's plant in Causeway, Co Kerry

SME Advice: Heike John

Ireland's reputation for quality and innovation in farming has created a thriving agritech sector that is pioneering advances across the entire agricultural value chain.

This is particularly evident among Ireland's agritech companies. A strong understanding of the industry has empowered them to develop solutions that enhance traditional farming practices that can also be implemented in diverse geographies and climates.

As part of an Enterprise Ireland trade mission to Germany last November, Minister Pat Breen visited EuroTier 2018 to support 18 agritech companies backed by the agency.

Their innovative products, services and technologies were showcased to over 160,000 potential customers.

Ireland's agritech companies have a reputation for innovative products and affordability in areas including machinery, farm-management software, sensors, grass management, milking, feeding, and water and power-management technologies.

They are also taking advantage of the global landscape, including the German market, the EU's largest.

Manufacturers of agricultural machinery achieved record half-year growth in the market in the first half of 2018 - an increase of 14pc in turnover to €5bn. Sales from business with local sales partners increased by 19pc to €1.4bn in the first two quarters. (Source: VDMA)

There are exciting opportunities here for Irish agritech companies. As the largest market on Ireland's doorstep, Germany's potential is too great to overlook. Ireland and Germany share the same currency and the market is extremely accessible.

Key agritech trends in Germany are smart farming systems, labour and energy-saving products, and animal-welfare solutions that help farmers operate more efficiently.

One Irish company that has capitalised is Dairymaster, the Kerry firm revolutionising milking technology. It was awarded the DLG Silver Innovation Award for its new milking parlour technology system.

Fergus O'Meara, international business development manager at Dairymaster, said: "Germany is the single most important market for us in mainland Europe.

"There are 4.3 million dairy cows and 60,000 dairy farms of various sizes - from larger farms in the east to smaller farms in the south and more traditional family farms in northern Germany. We've been in Germany for 15 years and have more than 40 dealers in the market."

Other key players in the market include Keenan, an Alltech company in Ireland. It offers InTouch technology, enabling animals to be fed an optimised diet by ensuring they get exactly what they need each day.

Moocall creates hardware and software for beef and dairy farmers, such as its IoT calving sensor, herd management software, and heat monitoring collar.

The award-winning calving sensor is monitoring cows, heifers and unborn calves in 40 countries across the globe, thus reducing mortality.

Germany is proving attractive for Irish firms. A total of 476 supported by Enterprise Ireland sell into the market. Enterprise Ireland's Dusseldorf office is ready to assist agritech companies in identifying opportunities.

Pre-visit and in-market supports, such as identification of potential partners and securing reference sites, are included, enabling firms to meet the right clients and create a presence with local resonance.

As part of its international #IrishAdvantage campaign, Enterprise Ireland launched an ebook called Agritech - The Future of Profitable Farming. It offers insights into the sector's most pressing issues, including how technology is helping to solve challenges worldwide and why sustainability and collaboration drive innovation.

Ireland may be a relatively small agricultural producer globally but what we do in the sector, we do extremely well.

As companies develop innovative solutions to meet international challenges, Germany is taking notice.

  • Heike John is a senior market adviser for the industrial sector based in Enterprise Ireland's Dusseldorf office

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