Dublin-based MagGrow is a patented and proprietary technology that helps solve the problem of droplet formation, experienced within conventional pesticide spray applications. CEO Gary Wickham outlines some recent successes for this precision-farming solution, with significant worldwide potential.
How does it compare with conventional spray technology?
Conventional pesticide spray technology wastes 70pc of the pesticides by trying to solve the drift problem but at the expense of coverage. The larger droplets created using larger nozzles miss or run off the target contaminating the environment. MagGrow allows growers to use a wider range of nozzles to get the balance of drift and coverage, thereby dramatically reducing the waste and improving protection against pests and disease.
What’s been the feedback from farmers and the farming industry?
We spent three years working with farmers to develop the product, so they have bought into it. As a result of this collaborative approach, they love the end product which is easy to install and maintain and this is critical for farmers. With a typical ROI of less than a year, they love the fact that not only are they improving their productivity and profitability, but they are also promoting sustainable intensification, something growers worldwide must do if we are to maintain food security.
“MagGrow allows growers to use a wider range of nozzles to get the balance of drift and coverage, thereby dramatically reducing the waste and improving protection against pests and disease”
How important has innovation been in helping MagGrow grow?
Innovation is key to MagGrow’s success. As well as our current patented technology, we are working on new exciting products through work with are doing with Trinity and our own crop science and research centres.
How important has networking been in helping MagGrow grow?
Networking has been critical in helping MagGrow grow and has allowed us gain access to Thrive, Trimble, investors, Alltech, Enterprise Ireland and ultimately our customers. I don’t do many talks at the moment, as I need to run and focus on the business, so I choose engagements very carefully.
“They (farmers) are also promoting sustainable intensification, something growers worldwide must do if we are to maintain food security”
What has been the biggest break for the business to date?
Signing the deal with Trimble and AMBER.
What level of impact can Irish AgTech make in the world with companies such as Microgen Biotech and Cainthus?
I know Xuemei from Microgen Biotech very well; a fellow Thrive winner along with the guys in Cainthus, through my time on the Alltech accelerators. Two great companies with great potential. We are a highly productive agri nation and are also recognised for great innovation in other sectors but not necessarily ag; although companies such as Dairy Master, Kerry Group, Glanbia and others do us proud. However, I think things are changing and there is a new generation of ag-tech entrepreneurs coming through. So, I am hopeful that Ireland can be at the forefront of developments in the food tech and ag-tech space.
How has the power of good branding played a role in helping grow the business?
It’s difficult to create a standout brand in a crowded marketplace. Nonetheless, we are unique in that we are solving a major problem and our technology is patented. We have developed a fantastic website, won many awards, interviewed by many publications and just now we are creating a video about the MagGrow journey and story. It’s all very exciting. It’s also helpful that we have a technology that helps contribute to solving some of the many challenges we face, such as food security and some of the environmental issues compounded by climate change. It also helps to have fantastic brands like Trimble as partners.
“We are unique in that we are solving a major problem and our technology is patented”
Do you foresee any Irish Agtech Unicorn start-ups?
Why not and I hope so. But Unicorn is a big target. Personally, and from a MagGrow perspective, I would rather focus on building the best products, solving the most difficult problems and helping farmers to become the hero in solving this planet’s food and water challenges. Do that and anything is possible.
Who do you admire in business and why?
I admire Bill Gates for building such as fantastic company and his generosity. Richard Branson for his tenacity by starting again after several failures. Warren Buffet for his fantastic business brain, beating the odds and of course his generosity to others.
What is the one skill you wish you had?
That’s a difficult one. On a business level, being in two places at once. Joking aside, I would say as an entrepreneur, one that needs continued work is delegation. On a personal level, I would have liked to have been a better rugby player and know how to play the guitar.
What trends do you see in AgTech?
Robotics, drones, AI, soil management, vertical farming, and of course precision farming companies like MagGrow.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
The CEO of Loctite would say, “don’t forget your team”. They need to love coming to work. You probably spend more time with them than your family. Spend time with them, have a coffee with them. See what concerns them. Care about them. Never forget them. Reward them. Titles are a necessary evil, but you are all in this together. There is no place for egos. Be a good listener and give them flexibility when they need it and in their time of need. They will give it back. Trust and empower them.
“We are doing our bit to help solve the greatest food and water challenge this planet has ever faced”
What area of business do you enjoy most?
Meeting our customers and business development. I also get excited by the science side of our technology, in how it works and its potential in other applications including non-Ag.
What makes it worthwhile?
Waking up knowing we are helping farmers to meet their twin profitability and sustainability goals whilst protecting the environment. In doing so, we are doing our bit to help solve the greatest food and water challenge this planet has ever faced. Due to a growing population, we must grow the same amount of food over the next 40-50 years or so as in the last ten thousand years combined. It’s amazing to be part of this story.
Interview by Brendan Byrne
Published 3 October, 2019