Removing oil from troubled soil

Thinking business with Dr Xuemei Germaine, CEO, MicroGen Biotech. ‘Our vision is to solve the problem of all the stressed land across the globe.’

Dr Xuemei Germaine (left) founded MicroGen Biotech in 2012 as a spin-out from I.T. Carlow. MicroGen Biotech is currently the only company in the world providing tailored or site-specific microbial products for stressed and polluted arable land. This is vital for preventing land abandonment that leads to food shortages.

“The portion of contaminated arable land in China has an addressable market value of $48 billion.”
Farmers will be able to grow more fresh food on arable soil stressed by pollution, using MicroGen’s disruptive technology.
What problem are you solving?
We turn polluted land into arable land using a natural process. The Chinese Government had to move away from old soil remediation techniques such as washing or burning pollutants out of the ground, which was impractical at an economic and environmental level.  
“Twenty percent (or 65m hectares) of arable land in China is stressed by pollution, primarily from industry and wastewater contamination.”
Bioremediation as a word may sound too technical, but in layman’s terms, we use these naturally occurring microbes and bacteria, which eat away oil and heavy metals like cadmium or chromium. It’s a waste management technique, and we use site-specific, tailored bacteria to remove or neutralise pollutants such as these from contaminated soil.
It has become a vital clean-tech strategy. Especially when you consider that twenty percent (or 65m hectares) of arable land in China is stressed by pollution, primarily from industry and wastewater contamination.

Why China and why now?
Commercially, China is a huge market. The portion of contaminated arable land there has an addressable market value of $48 billion. Last year this attracted Irish investors and match funding from Enterprise Ireland to the tune of €0.5m. A Chinese company also match funded this, as it understands the

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Rosanna Davison – my business ambitions

Rosanna Davison has had many careers. What’s next for this ambitious entrepreneur? 

She famously won the Miss World competition in 2003, and it seemed that overnight, Rosanna Davison became a household name in Ireland. Today, Davison is more into fitness than fashion and, following on from her number one bestseller in 2015, Eat Yourself Beautiful, the UCD graduate has just penned her second number one bestseller, Eat Yourself Fit. 
Niamh Linehan sat down with Davison to discuss diet tips for stressed out entrepreneurs, the challenges she faces as she grows her brand and what the future holds.
NL: You have had a successful modelling and TV career to date, why prompted you to make a move into business?
RD: Developing my brand and moving it more into the area of business has been a natural progression for me. I spent three years studying nutrition and wanted to use the qualification to grow into a new space. Day to day, it means more decisions need to be made and more time spent in my office than being out and about, but I’m enjoying the process.
“I took favourites, including Banoffee pie, cheesecake, brownies, biscuits, sticky toffee puddings and chocolate fudge cake, and made them using whole foods and without refined sugar.”

NL: Can you tell us a little bit about your new book and the inspiration behind it?
RD: Eat Yourself Fit is the follow-up to last year’s book, Eat Yourself Beautiful, and it’s more focused on fitness foods. It contains over 100 healthy recipes, from smoothies and juices to breakfasts, main courses, fresh snacks and decadent desserts made with healthier ingredients. I took favourites, including banoffee pie, cheesecake, brownies, biscuits, sticky toffee puddings and chocolate fudge cake, and made them using whole foods and without refined sugar.
There’s also a seven-day fat loss programme, advice on losing weight,

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Changing trends in the hotel sector

There is renewed confidence in the hotel sector in Ireland.
Over 200 hotel owners, managers, agents and suppliers recently attended a recent business briefing hosted by Bank of Ireland.
The theme of the event was ‘Changing trends in the hotel sector’.
Speakers included Shaun Quinn, CEO Fáilte Ireland; John Hughes, director, CBRE Hotels Ireland; Aiden Murphy, Crowe Horwath; Sarah Duignan, STR; Weldon Mather, WM Consultancy; Gerardo Larios, head of hospitality, Bank of Ireland.

Shaun Quinn, CEO Fáilte Ireland spoke about tourism trends and the outlook for Ireland.
“The hotel sector, particularly in the cities and traditional tourism hotspots, seem to be benefitting from increased activity in the domestic and overseas markets,” he said.
“The key to continuing recovery in tourism will lie in our overseas markets.”
Gerardo Larios, head of hospitality, Bank of Ireland, said that there is an increased confidence within the hospitality sector. “Businesses are beginning to expand and invest, and this is reflected in growing demand for term loans.”
In the past ten months, Bank of Ireland has approved over €110 million in funding to the hotel sector and is seeing real momentum across the industry. 
“We expect this trend to continue. The hotel sector has very good reasons to be optimistic and ambitious,” said Larios.
Below are the links to the trend reports presented at the event:
Shaun Quinn, CEO, Fáilte Ireland .
John Hughes, Director, CBRE.
Aiden Murphy, Crowe Horwath.
Sarah Duignan, STR.
Weldon Mather, WM Consultancy.
Images of Ashford Castle and Adare Manor from Shutterstock.

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Does your business have a global ambition?

“Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.” James Penney, founder of JCPenny.
To scale your business, you must enter new markets. Help is at hand for Irish firms with global ambitions.
Nearly 90% of Irish companies want to enter new international markets in the next 12 months, according to Enterprise Ireland’s latest research.
Enterprise Ireland says that over 140 of its international market advisors from over 30 of its overseas offices have returned to help 400 companies in Ireland develop new global export plans.
Following Brexit, Irish companies are ramping up their focus on larger target markets including USA/Canada; Northern Europe; Southern Europe/Middle East/Africa; Asia and Central Europe/Eastern Europe/CIS; Russia; and Latin America.
“We need to continue to drive the ambition of Irish exporters, especially in the aftermath of Brexit,” says Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland.
The Global Ambition project by Enterprise Ireland aims to encourage more exporters to scale up their export plans.
To apply for help go to Global Ambition.

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House Edit – a business designed for life

Interior architects Claire Price and Elaine Regan (above) launched, a digital interiors platform, in September 2016. Here, Claire Price tells their story so far.
How would I describe what we do? is an online interiors, lifestyle & sourcing guide, that offers affordable, shoppable content. No more searching for hours on end to find the perfect side table, lamp or rug. House Edit has all your favourite high street brands on just one site. Imagine a boutique Amazon for interiors with expert advice and inspiration.
Staying afloat during the transition from the design studio to online interiors and lifestyle destination has been our greatest achievement to date. 
Like all new businesses, we’ve had weak moments. Pre-launch we were working 18 hour days, and we had to dig deep. Cash flow was always a challenge as we began to take on less studio work. But somehow we navigated our way through. 
“I used to laugh at his TV commercials years ago; now I listen to the guy on a daily basis.”

Taking time out to step back from the business helps when you get a setback. Getting out and reluctantly exercising also really helps to focus. Personally, my secret weapon has to be Tony Robbins, a life and business strategist. I used to laugh at his TV commercials years ago; now I listen to the guy on a daily basis. 
How do I feel about risk? It’s an inevitable part of business but calculate it and protect your downside. Providing you don’t leave yourself destitute, losing your initial investment in a business isn’t the end of the world. Owing the bank a ‘ginormous’ loan, however, may be. So try to be strategic.
“It’s very easy to get caught up with the small stuff and lose sight of the primary objective: delivering an excellent service and growing your

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Invest4Success – Cavan, Leitrim, Longford and Roscommon

Major jobs and investment exhibition for Croke Park on November 3, 2016.
The Upper Shannon-Erne Project partners of Cavan, Leitrim, Longford and Roscommon Local Authorities, Bord Na Mona and the ESB are hosting a jobs and investment exhibition at Croke Park Conference Centre on November 3, 2016. 
The opportunities the Upper Shannon-Erne region has to offer businesses that want to set up – and the partnership approach that is active there – will be key topics at the event, which will host many interesting businesses and speakers. 
The Center Parcs project
For example, Raj Singh-Dehal, HR and commercial services director of Center Parcs, will outline his company’s vision for developing a forest resort – the biggest tourism investment [ever to be made] in the region.
Ciaran Corcoran, site director of Abbott Diagnostics, will share his experience of growing a medical device company in Longford. 
And Sharon Lavin, Waterways Ireland, will discuss how the Blueway project has transformed the inland waterways for recreational use.
Download the full invest4success-programme for details of all the keynote speakers and exhibitors. 
Pictured is Lough Key, Boyle, Co. Roscommon.

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API economy has ‘real opportunities’

The API sector is currently one of “the most exciting and dynamic” sectors in the Irish software industry.
At a recent Irish Software Association event, sponsored by Bank of Ireland, the speakers and the attendees discussed the API sector and its potential [positive] impact on the tech economy. 
What’s an API?
There are over 12,000 APIs offered by firms today. An API is best thought of as “a contract provided by one piece of computer software to another”.
The Harvard Business Review reports that generates 50% of its revenue through APIs, generates 90%, and eBay generates 60%.
“APIs are the means by which to execute a strategy, not a substitute for it,” says Adrian Mullet, head of technology at Bank of Ireland and organiser of the event.
“The Irish software companies that are using APIs to expand the reach of their products are seeing big wins for the partners within their API ecosystem.”
Great growth opportunities
Paul Sweetman, director of Irish Software Association, said the success of Irish software and technology companies is “built on an ecosystem of collaboration”.
“The API economy and the acceleration of API use represent a tremendous growth opportunity for Irish technology companies,” adds Mullett. “Companies across a diverse range of sectors such as finance, media, hospitality and travel are using APIs as a critical component of their business model.”

Speakers at the technology sector insights event, which took place at IBEC’s offices in Dublin, included (left to right) Alan Foy, group CEO, Blueface; Adrian Mullett, head of technology sector, Bank of Ireland; Paolo Malinverno, research vice president at Gartner; Dr Helen McBreen, investment director, Atlantic Bridge; and Maurice Buckley, CEO, TheHireLab.

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Herd and heritage – a castle with a pedigree

Wilton Castle played host to one of the last duels fought in Ireland. Today it has been transformed back to its former glory and into a thriving business by farmer Sean Windsor.
Following a decade of conservation and restoration, dairy farmer Sean Windsor has opened up Wilton Castle as a hospitality venue, ideal for holidays, weddings and special occasions. Situated on his land at Bree, near Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, the south wing of the Castle has been lovingly restored and is now attracting an increasing number of overseas visitors.                  
What inspired you to restore Wilton Castle? 
I grew up living and farming within a stone’s throw of the Castle, and I suppose at the back of my mind, I always had a desire to try and return the Castle to its former glory. I grew up with stories such as the architectural link between Wilton Castle, Johnstown Castle and Powerscourt and also that one of the last duels in Ireland was fought here in 1807, with tragic outcomes for both combatants.
However, from 1923 until 2004 it was in complete ruin, and it was going to require an enormous effort to restore it. To succeed, I knew I would have to do a lot of the work myself while still managing the farm and milking the cows in our herd on a daily basis.
What’s your family connection with the Castle?
The history of the Castle can be traced back to the mid-13th century when a family by the name of De Dene was recorded living here in 1247. The Alcock family were the longest in residence from 1695 until the Castle was burned down in 1923. My grandfather happened to be the estate steward or manager at this time. During the blaze and just before the roof collapsing, he helped rescue some of the furniture

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Small business loans now come with mentors

Small businesses need more than financial support. With this in mind, Microfinance Ireland (MFI) has launched a new mentoring service.  
The mentoring service will accompany the small loans MFI lends to businesses, whether they are starting or growing. The businesses must have 10 or fewer employees, however.
“While businesses constantly tell me that getting funding support for their business is very important, I believe our mentoring assistance is more critical to many new businesses,” says Garrett Stokes, CEO of Microfinance Ireland.
“Many business people are experts in their own sector, but they are weak in other areas such as finance, marketing and planning. Mentoring is another valuable aid to helping small businesses succeed.”
Go to your LEO for advice
The Microfinance Ireland mentoring service is delivered through the Local Enterprise Offices. 
Microfinance Ireland, set up four years ago as a government funded, not-for-profit lender to help get more people starting businesses, has so far helped to create over 2,300 jobs.
Microfinance Ireland works in partnership with the network of Local Enterprise Offices and the Local Development Companies, to offer business loans to small businesses. Further information about the mentoring service is available on                                                                                  

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Highway1 accelerator offers $100,000

Does your startup want $100,000 and an office space in San Francisco?
San Francisco-based accelerator programme Highway1 is accepting new applications for its eighth class from October 25, 2016. 
The programme is open to international applicants. Irish startups Drop and Ayda participated in the past. 

What is an accelerator? 
Accelerator programmes are for existing businesses that have the potential to grow. Accelerators typically offer shared office spaces, networking and mentoring opportunities and seed capital in exchange for a share of the business.
What’s on offer with this accelerator?
Successful applicants to Highway1 will avail of:
●        Up to $100,000 for 8% equity or $50,000 for 5%.
●        Onsite support from electrical, mechanical, firmware and manufacturing engineers.
●        Office space in San Francisco.
●        24/7 access to state-of-the-art prototyping labs.
●        Introductions to the best industrial design studios.
●        A trip to Shenzhen, China and an introduction to local resources.
●        A network of alumni, mentors and partners.
●        Introductions to key investors.
Applications close on November 1, 2016. For more information, visit Highway1.  
READ: A ‘gym for Irish food startups’.

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