Wednesday 12 December 2018

US agritech is a new digital frontier for exporters

The scale of the opportunity for Irish agritech in US companies is as vast as the landscape.
The scale of the opportunity for Irish agritech in US companies is as vast as the landscape.

Ryan J Shaughnessy

Disruptive digital technologies are opening up a new frontier of possibilities for Irish companies in the North American agricultural market, particularly across the midwestern states.

The scale of the opportunity for Irish agritech companies is as vast as the landscape. Of the top 10 US states with the highest number of farms, six are in the midwest. A 2015 report indicates that South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin are home to more than 16 million cattle, compared to 6.3 million in Ireland. It is also home to John Deere, the agricultural machinery giant with a $44.5bn market cap.

Enterprise Ireland recently opened a Chicago office to assist companies to target opportunities in the US midwest.

With world population expected to exceed 9.6 billion by 2050, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates food production must increase by 70pc over that period. At the same time, farmers are under pressure to optimise efficiency, reduce costs and maximise profitability. How can farmers cut costs while meeting rising demand?

Digitisation is a solution Irish companies are increasingly pursuing. Technologies based on intelligent machine control, telematics, big data and farm management software are helping farmers to achieve these goals. With the US unemployment rate at 3.9pc, automation is also helping address low labour availability and improve farm efficiencies.

Irish agritech companies have a number of advantages that help US farmers solve their most pressing problems. Ireland has emerged as a global hub for digital technologies. Dublin is home to EMEA headquarters for Twitter, LinkedIn, Google and Facebook, while HP, Intel, Dell and Microsoft are also here.

Irish exporters should consider their strategy for the US agricultural market. If your product is in the area of hydraulic componentry, you might believe it is best suited to direct sales to a large Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). But you should also consider that your route-to-market could be retail distribution or direct sales to end users in the market.

Enterprise Ireland can help you to plan and execute a strategy for the US midwest. Supports like our Market Discovery Fund can help you to define and answer questions like what percentage of the US market can you serve? Advisors in our Chicago office can also help to make introductions to prospective partners and buyers in the midwest.

Several Irish firms have made impressive progress in the US market. Moocall provides wearable sensors to the bovine industry to solve issues relating to calving and heat detection. Moocall's go-to-market strategy focuses primarily on distribution, coupled with new technology and image marketing strategies.

Dairymaster, with a US location in Cincinnati's Ohio, develops products including milking equipment, feeding systems, automatic scrapers, and MooMonitor animal health and fertility monitoring systems. Dairymaster's technically-informed sales force sells directly to farmers and through a network of dealers, offering unique solutions to increase milk production and optimise the operation of dairy farms.

MagGrow has enjoyed success in California and the Southeastern US, offering a spraying technology that helps farmers grow more by using less. The system, which spent three years in development, gives better coverage than conventional crop-spraying systems and reduces spray drift by up to 70pc, benefiting both farmers and the environment. The company's strategy is to sell via dealers who resell to growers.

These innovative solutions show that the horizon looks bright for Irish companies focused on agriculture's new frontiers.

Enterprise Ireland's #IrishAdvantage export promotion campaign will help ensure that Irish capabilities remain firmly in the sights of international customers, as we showcase the best of agritech at the Innovation Arena at the National Ploughing Championships next week.

  • Ryan J Shaughnessy is SVP Industrial Technology at Enterprise Ireland's Chicago office

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