New Innovator: FarmEye
Galway company’s digital system helps farmers trace food from soil to the table
Eoghan Finneran: “At present the digital sustainable soil management market is worth €6m per annum between Ireland and the UK, and over €1bn globally”
FarmEye is a newly minted agritech company co-founded in June of this year by farmer, scientist and agricultural consultant Eoghan Finneran, marine scientist and food entrepreneur Brendan Allen, and software engineering expert Joe Desbonnet.
The company’s product is an IT-based system that forms a digital chain of custody from the soil right through to the dinner table. Its main users will be large food and agribusinesses, agri and environmental consultants and environmental laboratories.
FarmEye is a highly visual, map-based soil management system that can be accessed via a laptop, desktop, or smartphone app, and used to maintain a record of the soil management and nutritional profile of every field on a farm.
The system is aimed at pasture–based agriculture, and will be of big interest to sectors such as the farming cop-ops who supply the major supermarket chains and need to be fully on top of providing traceability and sustainability information.
The idea for FarmEye came about when Allen saw his brother trying to juggle paper maps and lab results and get them to match up when preparing soil nutrient management plans for his farm. Allen thought there had to be a way of using digital technology to simplify the process, and approached NUI Galway to see if their researchers could help.
What emerged from the initial two-year research period was a solution aimed at the general farming community. What has since taken place is a pivot that has redirected the product toward much larger scale enterprises.
Model and focus
“It became clear that there would not be a sufficient volume of users to make the product viable as it stood,” says Finneran, who joined the project to advise on its commercialisation. “Major agribusiness concerns, consultants and labs were identified as having much bigger potential, and a great deal of work went into changing the model and focus. We now have field trials under way, and the basic product, Soil Mate, [a digital soil test that uses GPS and bar coding] will be launched in October.”
FarmEye provides two main services to its customers: the critical first link in the traceability chain from the supermarket to the soil, and the option to buy a premium service (paid for monthly) that includes Big Data analysis that can save farmers both time and money.
“The traceability aspect allows the food processor to stand over the provenance and sustainability of their products, while with Big Data analytics farmers can get valuable agronomic and production information about their farms,” Finneran says.
“For consultants FarmEye provides the means to digitally authenticate the sustainability of the soil management on their clients’ farms and to ensure compliance with environmental legislation,” he says. “For environmental laboratories we provide GPS and cloud-based technologies that allow geo-location of the source of environmental samples. We provide full digitisation of the process chain from sample intake through electronic payment to the automatic dispatch of results, and FarmEye can be seamlessly integrated into a lab’s existing information management system.”
FarmEye would now like to raise €250,000 to launch its two products in Ireland and the UK, and Finneran believes the company is commercially attractive to investors because managing field-level data is the next major step-change in the development of global agriculture.
“At present the digital sustainable soil management market is worth €6 million per annum between Ireland and the UK, and over €1 billion globally. Our aim is to capture 10 per cent of this market within six years, and we will be revenue-generating shortly.”
To date around €350,000 has been invested in FarmEye predominantly by Enterprise Ireland under its commercialisation funding. NUI Galway has also been a net contributor, and the company will license the IP from the university. FarmEye has also received support from the National Digital Research Centre’s Galway-based accelerator, and expects to employ 10 people within three years.