EY Entrepreneur of the Year has his finger on the pulses

Murad Al-Katib’s AGT foods is one of the world’s largest suppliers of lentils

Canadian Murad Al-Katib, a son of Turkish immigrants whose company supplies around a quarter of the world’s lentils, has been named EY World Entrepreneur of the Year for 2017.

Mr Al-Katib, the president and chief executive of AGT Food and Ingredients Inc, was selected from 59 finalists in 49 countries.

Brendan Mooney, chief executive of Belfast-based digital services company Kainos, represented Ireland at the awards.

Mr Al-Katib’s victory was announced at a gala ceremony held in the Salle des Étoiles in Monaco on Saturday.

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The businessman has grown AGT from a small business in his basement into a company that generates about 2.1 billion Canadian dollars (€1.39 billion) a year, with operations on five continents.

The company he founded in 2001 has become one of the largest suppliers of pulses – such as lentils, peas, beans and chickpeas – in the world. It also produces a number of other staple foods.

Grown revenue

AGT, which went public in 2007 and employs about 2,000 people globally, ships its products to over 120 countries. The company has grown revenue sustainably by an average of more than $100 million each year for the past five years.

Earlier this year, Mr Al-Katib received the prestigious Oslo Business for Peace award for contributing an estimated 700 million meals for refugee families during the Syrian crisis.

“[WE’RE)] feeding the world with an environmentally sustainable source that has a low carbon footprint and is extremely efficient on water use,” said Mr Al-Katib.

The businessman got his start when he managed to convince Canadian farmers to switch from growing traditional crops such as wheat and oilseed to pulses.

Global production

Last year, 11 million acres of lentils and peas were planted in Canada, with the country now accounting for 60 per cent of the global production of these pulses.

Mr Al-Katib's family, who are originally from Turkey, moved to Canada in the late 1960s, finally settling in Davidson, a small farming community with a population of just over 1,000 people in south central Saskatchewan. The company still has its headquarters in Saskatchewan.

The 59 finalists in this year’s EY World Entrepreneur of the Year Awards have combined revenues of $50 billion (€44.6 billion) and have experienced average growth of 42 per cent over the last three years.

The EY Entrepreneur network, which has been active for more than 30 years, has programmes in more than 60 countries and 145 cities worldwide.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist