Irish start-up Agricultural Magnetics, t/a MagGrow, has been named winner of the 2016 Thrive Accelerator Sustainability Award, at the 2nd annual Forbes AgTech Summit held in Salinas, California. The Forbes AgTech Summit brings together over 500 of the smartest and most entrepreneurial minds in Silicon Valley and global agriculture to tackle some of the world’s most critical challenges.

MagGrow is a pioneering magnetic spraying technology which reduces drift by up to 80% while at the same time delivering superior coverage, a key challenge of existing drift reduction technologies.

Headquartered at NovaUCD, the Centre for New Ventures and Entrepreneurs at University College Dublin (UCD), MagGrow was one of just 12 companies from around the world, and the only company from Ireland, selected to participate on the 2016 Thrive Accelerator Programme for promising Food and AgTech start-ups.

Through the 8-week Thrive Accelerator Programme, an initiative of SVG Partners, companies benefited from high-level mentorship, collaboration and direct access to the world’s top fresh agriculture companies in and around Salinas and the central California growing region.

The awards ceremony was the culmination of Thrive’s Demo Day on the first morning of the 2016 Forbes AgTech summit. Demo Day, the hallmark event of the Thrive cohort class, provided the participating start-ups the opportunity to showcase their solutions to a broad audience of investors and corporate partners.

Each start-up pitch was scored by executives from Taylor Farms, Land O’Lakes, Western Growers Association, Wells Fargo, JV Smith, SAP, many of whom are a part of the Thrive programme as mentors during the year.

It is estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations that 20 to 40 percent of global crop output is lost due to plant pests and diseases. Growers combat pests and diseases by spraying herbicide, fungicides and insecticide to improve crop quality and yield.

An unintended consequence of spraying is spray drift, which occurs when application dust or droplets move through the air or soil to an unintended site. Nearby communities, adjacent to crop fields, plants, water supply or other bodies of water, are all impacted by spray applications.

To solve this problem MagGrow has developed a pioneering magnetic spraying technology system which utilises the fact that all living plants and soil have a magnetic field.

Through MagGrow’s technology, which involves the attachment of a series of magnetic inserts onto a sprayer , an electromagnetic charge is infused into the liquid spray, resulting in targeted attraction and superior coverage of the plant or soil resulting in a reduction of spray drift by over 80%.

The superior drift control and coverage provided by MagGrow’s technology means that profitability is increased through reduced pesticide wastage, productivity is improved through increased spray windows while supporting environmental regulations and a better environment.

In addition field studies of MagGrow’s technology on commercial farms in The Netherlands, Kenya and Ethiopia have demonstrated reduction in water usage, reduction in disease pressure, increased spray capacity and reduced labour input due to fewer changeovers of the sprayer, and less waste and environmental contamination.

Gary Wickham, CEO, MagGrow said, “We are truly delighted to have won the 2016 Thrive Accelerator Sustainability Award. It is a great testimony to the dedication of the MagGrow team in the development of our unique technology that has significant transformational benefits for the arable and horticulture sectors.”

He added, “The world’s population is estimated to grow to 9 billion by 2050 so the demand for food and water will increase dramatically but by using current farming methods we simply will not be able to meet this demand. But we truly believe that every generation has the right to a sustainable supply of food and water and so we must find better ways to grow and that is why we developed MagGrow.”

In addition to MagGrow, microbiome testing company Trace Genomics received the 2016 Thrive Accelerator Innovation Award and artificial intelligence and computer vision company GeoVisual received 2016 Thrive Accelerator Operational Excellence Award.

SVG Partners Founder and CEO John Hartnett, who presented the awards to each of the three companies said, “These three companies, like all of the companies that went through the THRIVE accelerator this year, demonstrate the potency of technology in the agriculture sector. MagGrow, Trace Genomics and GeoVisual are the type of companies that will demonstrate how we get to higher crop yield and ensure sustainability through the advent of new technologies and practices.”

Nuritas Research, the Irish bioinformatics start-up, participated on the 2015 Thrive Accelerator Programme and was the winner of the 2015 Thrive Accelerator Award. Nuritas, founded by Dr Nora Khaldi, had previously completed the 3-month UCD 2013 VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme held at NovaUCD.

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