AgriNet – the software behind farming

In 1994, CEO Barry Lynch co-founded Irish Farm Computers Ltd (AgriNet) in Kells, Co. Meath. Since then he has helped transform it into one of Ireland’s leading agricultural software companies.

What does AgriNet do?
A typical Irish beef or dairy farmer focuses on three main areas. Firstly to grow grass efficiently, secondly to feed a cow or bullock efficiently and thirdly to get something out the other end, and returning cash to the bank account. Our software helps them do this. 
Our farmer clients require a comprehensive service, and because of that we deliberately focus on providing a complete range of software solutions across grass measurement, cash-flow and accounts – plus recording all the history of the animals in the herd.
“Farmers are expected to be a combination of a vet, a herdsman, a grassland expert and an accountant.”
Farmers must be multi-skilled
Farmers are expected to be a combination of a vet, a herdsman, a grassland expert and an accountant which often makes it a challenging environment to sell software services into. Essentially farmers are time poor, and if the scrapers are blocked in the shed, you have to go and fix them, which generally takes priority over data entry.
At what point did you know you had a viable business?
We launched the business in 1994, and like any other small business, at the start, it was really tough. In the first three years, it meant scrambling to get a piece of software that was good enough, then calling out and very quickly, getting feedback to try and learn what our clients wanted, followed by making sure to give it to them in the next version.
It was only in 1997 that everything began to click into place when a farmer Co-Op called, Progressive Genetics invested in us. By then we had a better understanding of what

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From farmer to award-winning food producer

John Commins started as a farmer and has since become an award-winning food producer. 
In 2005, artisan farmer and food producer, John Commins began farming Piedmontese cattle, a breed mainly snow-white in colour and native to Italy, from his 120-acre family farm, located near Thurles in Co. Tipperary. He now supplies this award-winning high-end beef into supermarkets, restaurants and online across Ireland. Here, John talks about the journey he has travelled and his plans to grow the business into the future.
“The beef contains fewer calories and less cholesterol than chicken.”

What is Irish Piedmontese beef?
Over a decade and a half ago, I travelled to Italy to source our initial breeding stock. Piedmontese are impressive cattle but what impressed me most was the eating quality of the meat – and the surprising fact that it contains fewer calories and less cholesterol than that of chicken. It also has the lowest fat percentage in the meat of any description, with even less fat than salmon or venison. The reason for this is due to a natural change that developed in the breed about 200 years ago. It’s down to a myostatin gene that all cattle have but with which Piedmontese beef are doubly endowed – a trait which has been refined by Italian cattle breeders over the years.
“I leased a unit, buying all of the equipment we needed and employed our own butcher to work for us.”
Why did you go into the food business?
At the time there was a very lucrative trade from Ireland to Italy for ‘E’ and ‘U’ grade lean type weanlings. Initially, we considered supplying our weanlings back to the Italian market, and although the Italians were very interested in buying them, we were unable to supply at the volumes required. From tasting, I knew it was fabulous meat and that

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Book your place at ‘Food Series 2018’

Blas na hEireann celebrates the best of Irish food producers and more importantly, it has created a network of Irish producers that work together. Pat Carroll looks at the rise of the Irish food awards.
On Monday, November 12, Bank of Ireland will host the ‘Food Series 2018’ at its Limerick Workbench. Local Blas na hEireann 2018 finalists will attend and showcase samples of their produce while the Blas 2018 Buyer’s Directory will be also be launched.
It’s a free-to-attend event and all are welcome to register here. 
The start of Blas
When people hear the word ‘startup’ they often think of a tech firm, striving to be the next Stripe or Amazon. However, Ireland has a rich and diverse history of food startups, and more producers are emerging every week.
One person who came from this world and wanted to highlight our best food producers by raising their profiles both in Ireland and internationally is Artie Clifford. Eleven years ago, he established Blas na hEireann and the Irish Food Awards were born. In its debut year, there were 400 entries, this year over 2,500 applied to have their products judged. Initial judging takes place in UCC and is a month-long task which brings each category down to the top five in that category to move forward to the finalist round. The finalist judging brings the very best of food and drinks to a panel of 120 judges, judged over two days.
Big buyers
Over the years the event has become one of the year’s top highlights for Irish food producers, buyers and the hospitality industry. In fact, in addition to all the main Irish supermarket groups being present, buyers from Harrods, Selfridges as well as Fortnum & Mason all now attend, to identify the best of Irish producers so they can secure the best of Irish

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‘We want to end the use of email for work’

Slack, a workplace collaboration tool used by millions of people worldwide, is one of the fastest growing tech firms in history. Stephen Conmy met with Cal Henderson, Slack’s co-founder and CTO to discuss how Slack was born and his ambition to end the role of emails in work projects.
If your ambition is to overtake email as the preferred communications ‘weapon of choice’ for teams in the work-place, people tend to listen. Investors tend to listen.
Who doesn’t hate email? Who doesn’t hate office managers who rule by email even more? Email is clumsy, it’s one-way, it can lead to ‘bad boss’ behaviour, it has no collaborative nuances. In essence, it is out-dated and outmoded.
Slack, however, is a collaboration tool that is astoundingly appealing. Since its launch a few years ago it has amassed eight million daily active users. As a tool for large organisations, it also has over 70,000 teams paying to use the service from over 65% of the top 100 Fortune companies. Not bad for a piece of technology that was created out of necessity and then became the world’s most famous accidental business.
In typical tech parlance, Slack describes itself as “a place where teams connect”. In practice, it’s an operating system that connects teams and people with real-time messaging, tools and services.
In this video, co-founder Cal Henderson describes how Slack was ‘born’.

As a business, Slack has big ambitions. Its new ‘Shared Channels’ service allows different companies to work and collaborate with each other. “By 2025, Slack believes that Channels will replace email as the primary way that people communicate and collaborate at work,” is the company’s official line.
The enemies of email wait with bated breath.
A substantial arsenal to expand 
Slack employs close to 800 people in seven different cities worldwide, one of them being Dublin. The firm opened its Dublin

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Harvesting the wild Atlantic waves

The story of Achill Island Seasalt is one with roots that go deep into the history of this wild, untamed island.
Achill is by far Ireland’s largest island and the sea that surrounds it has been the lifeblood for generations of people living there. Since returning home, some twenty years ago, Kieran and Marjorie O’Malley have renewed that maritime link, by establishing Achill Island Seasalt on Achill Island in Co. Mayo. It’s a simple story but one which continues to resonate with both local and visitor alike.
Marjorie tells how in 2013, this enterprising family became producers of an artisan sea salt, reviving the hand-harvesting of sea salt on Achill – after a gap of some centuries.
“In an earlier 1700s map, it says ‘salt point’, so we knew that a history of salt making was here on Achill.”
Why sea salt?
In 2012, I had been watching a fascinating documentary on sea salt production on the west coast of Wales. It was about a family who had started making sea salt in their family kitchen before turning into a full-time business which intrigued me. I remember telling Kieran about it, and he began reading up on the history of Achill.
In the early 1820s, a missionary gentleman arrived on the island to proselytise the local population. In one of his biographies, he referenced the remnant of a sea salt factory. We researched further and discovered that salt pans were also noted on many historical maps. In an earlier 1700s map, it says ‘salt point’, so we knew that a history of salt making was here on Achill. It was this, along with help from our daughter and two sons, that provided the motivation to start the business.
“It has a very high mineral content, and none of it is stripped away.”
Our sea salt is unique to

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Dulann – a global business built in Wexford

Dulann is an innovative online e-learning company based in Wexford Town run by business partners and entrepreneurs, Damian Donlon (pictured in the middle) and Matthias Kausch (left). Launched in 2013, their initial product set out to disrupt the food safety market, by reducing costs and improving efficiencies for the SME sector in Ireland. Here, CEO Damian Donlon talks about their unique approach and their plans to rapidly scale the business over the next few years. 
“We started off in the lobby of the Talbot Hotel in Wexford, and for the first six months, we held our meetings there.”
How we started
We started off in the lobby of the Talbot Hotel in Wexford, and for the first six months, we actually held our meetings there. Matthias’s background is in learning and development. He is also a published author within food safety which became our first e-learning course and cost in the region of €100,000 to produce. Previously I had spent ten years in construction, and although that industry was hugely satisfying, you were mostly involved in building and selling a once-off product, before quickly moving onto the next project. With the arrival of the recession, what really attracted me to e-learning was the concept that you could build a product once – and still having the opportunity to sell it many times over. 
“There are 13m people in Europe operating under one piece of mandatory food safety legislation.”
We had enough insight from our market research that there was a real need out there and with the right product, we felt that we could satisfy that need. A key factor was realising that there were 13m people in Europe operating under one piece of mandatory food safety legislation which was a real indication of the potential size of the market. For us, it was about using

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Nine Artificial Intelligence (AI) firms on the rise

“I am telling you, the world’s first trillionaires are going to come from somebody who masters AI and all its derivatives, and applies it in ways we never thought of.” – Mark Cuban. 
Artificial Intelligence (AI) as future superintelligence is going to transform the way we do business.
AI is intelligence demonstrated by machines or “intelligent agents” who can mimic human intelligence – human “cognitive” functions such as “learning” and “problem-solving”.
Intelligent devices are now being applied in mathematics, computer science, linguistics, psychology and more.
AI incorporates enormous opportunities and benefits, making our life more comfortable, more exciting, creative and smarter. It is a new revolutionary technology, that might even help eliminate poverty, war, and disease.
After 25 years of AI Research, Trinity College Dublin’s Adapt Centre researchers have recently declared that Ireland can be recognised as an Island of artificial intelligence, data analytics, machine learning, human-machine interaction and optimisation.
Why?
Ireland is home to a vibrant open AI ecosystem for collaboration and community. Many corporations in Ireland have established centres on data analytics, cloud computing, big data and future internet.
Google, for example, launched a support hub for AI startups in Dublin last year. Google’s AI Launchpad Studio is designed to provide technical and product support to entrepreneurs who work with artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Moreover, Ireland became the first country in the world to develop an industry-driven nationwide Post Graduate MSc in Artificial Intelligence in 2017, when the University of Limerick introduced a master’s level course in artificial intelligence.
Forbes ranks Ireland as the fourth best country in the world for business 2017, and PwC survey shows that Ireland is the only English speaking country in the Eurozone in the EU post-Brexit that provides an ideal hub for organisations seeking a European hub. Ireland is definitely an attractive area for investment in emerging technologies.
Artificial Intelligence has a

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Gorey chosen for Internet Day 2018 digital initiative

IE Domain Registry launches Internet Day 2018 with new ‘Digital Town’ initiative to combat low rates of e-commerce in Irish towns.
The IE Domain Industry has launched a new ‘Digital Town’ initiative to mark Internet Day 2018.
The company, who manage and maintain Ireland’s .ie domain name, launched this initiative to combat low rates of e-commerce in Irish towns and will take place in Gorey, Co Wexford on October 25th.
While Ireland’s e-commerce economy is worth an estimated €12.3bn, only three in ten SMEs take sales orders through their website, a survey of 1,000 SMEs has shown.
The ‘Digital Town’ initiative will promote awareness and understanding of the internet in Ireland by its citizens, businesses and communities and celebrate the digital achievements of the local community.
Gorey has been chosen for its achievements in cultivating a truly digital environment in the town, and for its ongoing successes in fully embracing digital for its residents and local businesses. IE Domain Registry believes that through showcasing its efforts, Gorey can inspire Irish towns to begin their journey to becoming fully digital.
The IE Domain Registry also reported a 29% growth in new domain registrations in Gorey in 2017 which made the town very appealing for the initiative.
As part of the initiative, IE Domain Industry, along with Wexford County Council, The Hatch Lab and Gorey Chamber of Commerce, will oversee a number of digital initiatives over the next four weeks which will further develop digital skills for businesses and community groups.
David Curtin, chief executive of IE Domain Registry, said: “Gorey is actively embracing digital and the possibilities of the internet, and has made significant advances in cultivating a digital environment. The arrival of high-speed broadband in the town has stimulated a significant increase in digital activity. This includes the launch of the tech co-working space, The Hatch

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Leading designers offer services to businesses

Are you a business owner? Would you like a one-hour consultation with a top Irish creative designer for just €75?
The Institute of Designers in Ireland’s ‘Mind over Matter’ event is coming to a venue near you. It takes place on October 10, the National Day of Creativity, with all proceeds going to AWARE.
This valuable initiative gives businesses of all sizes a consultation with the best of Irish design talent for a minimal fee.
The sessions will run in nine venues nationwide – Belfast, Cork, Carlow, Dundalk, Waterford, Limerick, Galway, and in two Dublin locations.
Full details are on the IDI’s website.
Good design is essential to a good business
Entrepreneurs, SMEs and startups are now encouraged to book a session with design experts in areas such as website development, graphic design, Design Thinking, branding, and marketing.  
Kim Mackenzie-Doyle, the former president of the IDI and founder of ‘Mind over matter’ says mental health is something the design community and the business community are keenly aware of. “Mind over Matter brings the business community and the design community together in mutually beneficial ways. Many business owners and creatives often work in isolation. Mind over Matter is as much about networking and mental health awareness as it is about the work and new contacts and new business,” says Mackenzie-Doyle.
Book your consultation with a design expert
Nearly 200 designers from all over Ireland are donating their time for free with all funds raised being donated to AWARE.
Designers from all specialities are represented including graphic designers, UX specialists, architects, creative strategists, illustrators, interior designers, product designers, brand experts, marketing leaders and web developers. There is something for every type of business.
Booking is open from now until October 9 at www.idimindovermatter.ie.

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The rise of Green Saffron

In 2004, Arun Kapil left the UK music industry to start a new life in Ireland. He started his business by selling spice sachets at a farmers’ market and now has plans for global expansion.
Arun Kapil grew up in Lincolnshire an always had a love for cooking, instilled by his Hindu father and Yorkshire mother. Following a friend’s recommendation, he enrolled on a 12-week course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, Co. Cork. He arrived in Ireland with little money but within just two years began producing sachets of fresh spice, sourced directly through his cousins in India, to sell at his market stall in Mahon Point Farmer’s Market in Cork City.
His company, Green Saffron, founded in 2007 and located in Midleton, Co. Cork now enjoys sales of almost one million euro a year, spread across the retail, ingredient and commodity markets.
Here he tells the story behind his brand’s success and outlines plans to help shake-up and disrupt the spice market, by selling into a continent, with probably one of the biggest markets for spices and herbs in the world.
“I never had a business plan until 2012. It helped us raise €500,000 in funding.”

Stepping into the spice trade
Working in the kitchen at Ballymaloe, I had a real hankering for spices, and I suppose to some extent, I missed my dad’s home cooking, along with the home-food culture of the UK.
I felt that the spices were, and to some extent still are, under a bushel. Not everyone understands the need for spices to be really fresh and vibrant, to really appreciate just how beautifully fragrant and delicious they can be. I suppose that’s why I called my Dad with an initial order to get a 15Kg package of spice sent over from my cousins in India.
The brilliant thing about farmers’

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