The AgTechUCD Agccelerator programme, commencing this September, is an intensive 12-week programme which includes dedicated business development workshops and investor readiness training, mentoring from ag tech or food tech experts and business advisers, guest speakers and facilitated introductions to AgTechUCD’s venture capital and business angel networks.

“It opened two weeks ago and it closes on 26 August,” explains Niamh Collins, manager of AgTechUCD Innovation Centre.

“The UCD Lyons farm is out in Kildare where we are based and, ideally, where the on-farm testing will happen as well for the start-ups who wants to trial their products or services. We have one or two trialing there at the moment.”

The Innovation Centre manager is also a new appointment for Niamh, who has a wealth of experience in the start-up tech scene having managed accelerator programmes and innovation days in the past.

The UCD Lyons farm is in Kildare and is where the programme will be based.

“It the first time for NovaUCD to run this programme and we’ve a brand-new centre at the farm. We’re focusing on the ag tech or food tech space,” she adds.

The programme has been funded through the Regional Enterprise Development Fund, administered by Enterprise Ireland.

The AgTechUCD Agccelerator Programme will conclude in early-December when all participating start-ups will pitch their businesses to a panel of investors with the opportunity to be awarded prize funding in a number of award categories.

The ideal candidate

Candidates for the programme should already have a working model of their innovation and be no more than five years in operation.

“They need to have their MVP (minimum viable product) developed, be at an early stage but less than five years’ operating,” says Niamh, “and even at that stage, they can be revenue generating or not. They do need to be developed because we want to accelerate the business as opposed to accelerate the idea.

“It’s not a ‘start your own business’ or an ideation programme, it’s an accelerator programme for early-stage companies who are in ag tech or food tech,” she continues.

“Something that makes the life of the farming community or processes in businesses simplified with the use of technology. It has to be a solution to a problem.”

The UCD Lyons Farm in Kildare.

Overview of the 12-week programme

Workshops will be held every Tuesday and Thursday morning for 12 weeks (online) from 9.30am until 12.30pm.

They will take candidates through the areas of business – such as business development and leadership skills, protecting your intellectual property (IP), finances, marketing, PR and investor readiness.

“We work around their business model, the type of business model that will suit their business, financial modelling, all the elements of finance, demystifying the financial language as well, because I think that scares a lot of people,” says Niamh. “Finance is generally the last thing that’s left on the list.

“We’ll also be looking at the legal side of things, too.That is something – particularly at the very early stage – affecting co-founders.

“You often hear, ‘I’ve set up a business with my best friend and there’s nothing going to go wrong’, and then it goes wrong, so we do focus on early-stage legal information,” she explains.

Another integral part of being a start-up is learning to tell your own story. The “why” to your innovation, who you are, where you came from.

“Start-ups are generally bad at telling their story. What is the business? What are we about? Who are we selling to?

“There is a whole piece around that, as well, during the 12 weeks,” says Niamh.

Cows grazing on the UCD Lyons Farm in Kildare.

Mentorship and support

The start-up will also have the opportunity to gain valuable advice and support from the many programme partners.

Partners on the AgTechUCD Agccelerator Programme, include: AIB; The Yield Lab Europe; Bimeda, Devenish; Carbery; Origin Enterprises; Ornua; and HerdWatch, who are providing financial and mentoring support. Other mentors include representatives from Greencore, Kubota, Dairymaster, the Virtual Vet, Finistere, Macra Na Feirme and Atlantic Bridge.

“You can get very caught up and passionate about a particular idea or convinced of a path or solution that you want to create, and it’s great to get input and test assumptions with people who have actually gone down that path already,” says Sinead Quealy, co-founder and managing director of Virtual Vet.

“They can help you navigate or avoid some of the challenges and pitfalls that any entrepreneur or new idea or new project can actually encounter.

“Help, advice and bouncing ideas off people is always welcome.”

Candidates for the AgTechUCD Agcellerator Programme should already have a working model of their innovation and be no more than five years in operation.

How to apply for the UCD Agccelerate programme

Applications close on Thursday 26 August and all programme details can be found under the AgTechUCD heading on the NovaUCD home page. Applications can be made online through F6S platform – the ‘Apply Now’ button can be found at the bottom of the programme page.