Herdwatch crowned overall winner of AIB Start-up Academy

Agri-Tech start-up takes home prize of €140k in advertising and professional mentorship

Fabien Peyaud of Herdwatch, who was crowned the winner of the AIB Start-up Academy 2015. Photo: Conor Mulhern

Herdwatch, a farming app and software package for dairy and beef cattle farmers, was last night crowned the overall winner of the AIB Start-up Academy.

The start-up, which co-founder Fabien Peyaud calls "CRM for cows", is a digital livestock management system for farmers.

“It’s not often that I am speechless, but I am. This is heavy. It’s worth its weight in gold.

“As far as Herdwatch is concerned…this is absolutely amazing. I hope we look back on this and say this was the start of the journey,” Mr Peyaud said when he took to the stage to accept his award.

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He will take home a prize which includes €140,000 in advertising, professional mentorship and office space at The Irish Times.

All 11 Start-up Academy finalists pitched onstage at the Sugar Club in Dublin last night. They each had five-minutes to present, and afterwards fielded tough questions from the judges.

Last night’s judges were Johnny Ryan (executive director of the UCD Innovation Academy), Jean O’Sullivan (manager at Enterprise Ireland), Ken Burke (head of business banking at AIB), Brian Keating (brand director at AIB), Pamela Newenham (business journalist at The Irish Times) and Jill Downey (managing partner at Livewire).

They had the difficult task of choosing the winner after the pitching session, which they did after about 30 minutes of deliberating.

It was a tense week of preparing for the start-ups. Ahead of the event, Peyaud said:

“The pressure is on, but I am trying not to let that affect me too much. I have spent a lot of time going through my notes from the past 8 weeks, and I am genuinely amazed at how different (and hopefully better) this pitch is going to be from any other I have done before. Only time will tell…but whatever happens it has been truly “game-changing” experience for Herdwatch and me.”

Last night’s final was the culmination of a yearlong search for the best start-up talent in the country.

The 11 start-up finalists went through a rigorous selection process to get into the AIB Start-up Academy, an eight-week training programme in a range of entrepreneurial topics, from social media to business planning.

“This has been a really fantastic journey for The Irish Times and AIB. We have travelled the length and breadth of Ireland in search of the best start-up talent in the country, and we found it. They’re all here,” said Gary Quinn of The Irish Times, last night’s host.

The AIB Start-up Academy will happen again in 2015/2016 and will kick off in May with pitching events around the country.