Herdwatch, the app and software package for farmers, recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the launch of its smartphone app. Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength, going through a long period of organic growth before, more recently, accelerating that expansion on the back of a major investment from a private equity firm.

To mark the anniversary and hear about plans for the future, the Irish Farmers Journal recently sat down with Herdwatch CEO and co-founder, Fabien Peyaud.

“The idea was born out of the recession,” Peyaud explained. “I was working on software and support for Farm Relief Services (FRS) and the then CEO Peter Byrne was asking for ideas on how we could grow that business – to look outside the box for any opportunities for the company.

“I was particularly challenged by this as Peter always used to say that software was only ever a cost for the company.”

Peyaud’s own background in IT is in customer relationship management (CRM) and creating software tools to help businesses increase productivity.

He said that his original thought was to explore ideas around developing a tool like that for farmers.

After all, as he said himself, farmers are business people too.

One of the biggest potential savings he saw was to reduce the amount of paperwork farmers have to fill in. Not from a farming background himself, he was shocked to see how long farmers had to spend at the kitchen table filling out forms.

His research also showed that over 90% of farmers were using no software at all to manage their records.

He pitched the idea to Byrne and got the green light to proceed. It took two years to get from those initial conversations to the first appearance of Herdwatch in front of farmers at the National Ploughing Championships in 2013. A few months later, in February 2014, the app was launched.

When asked about the risks around launching a smartphone-based product to a pool of customers, where many didn’t have a smartphone at all, Peyaud pushes back quite hard.

“I take issue with the myth that farmers aren’t innovators.

“They’ve been innovating using technology for hundreds of years,” he said, adding that he never worried about farmers adopting his company’s new technology – even if there were plenty of people telling him that it would never work and that farmers are “not techies”.

“To be clear” he added, the lack of farmer tech-savviness was “never an issue”.

After the initial launch of the app in 2014 Herdwatch grew without outside investment – other than the support offered by FRS. In the world of startup enterprises, this process is known as “bootstrapping” – where a business is built without any external capital or support, literally pulling itself up by its bootstraps.


During this period, the company entered the UK market, became the number one farming app in Ireland, and in 2020 launched the next generation of its app, which was a total rebuild of the initial software package designed to be better and faster than the original.

That ground-up rebuild of the app allowed the company to build other solutions for farmers in sectors such as sheep and goats, as well as offering a grass and crops facility.

Peyaud emphasised the importance for the company in building the new app as it gave the impetus for the next round of expansion.

The other factor that came into play that gave extra momentum to the expansion plan was the arrival of an outside investor in the form of Renatus Capital Partners, a Dublin-based private equity firm backed by a collection of Irish business people and the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (SIF).

For a company of its size, the investment, which according to accounts filed at the Companies Registration Office totalled €3m, is certainly significant.

Peyaud said that it was very important for him when raising investment that they did it with the right partner, and he is sure that Renatus is the right one for Herdwatch.

The investment from Renatus coincided with FRS selling the vast majority of its stake in Herdwatch, leaving FRS owning just over 10% of the company.

While the capital injection has allowed the company to engage in some acquisitions, both in Ireland and the UK in the last year, it has also helped Herdwatch in its ambitions to move the business to a global scale.

We’ve made our app, our platform, global. It’s multi-country and multi-lingual. In that time, we’ve also built a small team in the US. There is a big opportunity, and a big risk there

“We’re number one in livestock management software in Ireland and the UK. We’re looking to constantly grow our business in these key markets, and expand our offering, including with the vet businesses we acquired.

“However, we have also been turning our attention to other markets in the last 18 months.

“We’ve made our app, our platform, global. It’s multi-country and multi-lingual. In that time, we’ve also built a small team in the US. There is a big opportunity, and a big risk there.”

Peyaud is again quick to dismiss preconceptions about the US market. The view from Ireland is often that agriculture there is based on huge farms with huge numbers of animals. He said that while those ranches certainly exist, the majority are not much bigger than the average Irish operation.

Smaller herds

“We think that of the 800,000 cattle herds in the US, only 10,000 to 20,000 use software. While the smaller herds don’t have compliance to deal with, and aren’t even obliged to tag their cattle, they still have the same efficiency and performance management needs that Irish farmers do, and that’s where our app can help.”

He adds that they have been building up their team in the US and updating their product for that market since they soft-launched there around six months ago and are now just on the cusp of going a bit bigger to really push into the US.

While the app is available in other potentially significant markets such as France and New Zealand, Peyaud said that the company doesn’t have the scope yet to fully integrate into those markets due to time differences and the specifics of local regulations.

Looking to the future

Looking ahead, Peyaud said that acquisitions are part of the company’s new strategy since it gained the outside investment.

“Where it makes sense, and where we can, we will try to grow by partnering with, or acquiring businesses.”

When asked if there is any specific deal Herdwatch is looking at, he said there is very little right now. “There is only so much you can chew.”

He said he doesn’t have a 10-year target for the business, while admitting that, obviously, it would be nice to be the number one herd management software package globally.

“I don’t have a long-term goal. I often say here that we need to do the right thing. If we do the right thing for long enough, then something good will happen.”

Timeline: key years for Herdwatch

  • 2011: research into farmer software needs and app development starts.
  • 2014: first version of the app is launched.
  • 2015: reaches 1,000 users.
  • 2016: enters the UK market.
  • 2020: next-generation app launched.
  • 2022: Renatus investment.
  • 2023: entry into US market.