Our latest piece in the series exploring how the Innovation Academy UCD course has helped different participants in different ways. This time we interview Brendan Byrne, a graduate of the UCD Postgraduate Certificate in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Enterprise who is the Area Manager at Farmflo.

Tell us a bit about the company you are working for?

Farmers are time poor and the problems we help solve are to simplify farm compliance and farm management recording. We also facilitate real-time data capture and analytics to help farmers optimise bottom line profitability.

Farmflo is an innovative Farm Management Software System developed for the cloud. It’s like having a digital dashboard / filing cabinet for farm data.

What was your own background?

My background is in agricultural science and I was working within the areas of crop advisory and the area of nutrient management and was looking as to how it could be streamlined digitally. I happened to meet Farmflo around the time I was about to start the course in Kilkenny. It was these drivers that helped shape the direction I chose to focus on.

Why did you choose to do the UCD Innovation course?

I was delighted with the opportunity to immerse myself in the areas of innovation, creativity and design thinking. I was also looking for new inspiration and wanted to find out how you would go about researching and developing innovative business ideas.

I could also see that we were at the dawn of an extraordinary technological revolution with enormous change, opportunity and disruption happening in every industry and agriculture is likely to be no exception.

It was timely, with my background, and the location of the course, if it wasn’t in Kilkenny it wouldn’t have worked.

What skills did you develop on the course?

Customer discovery was very important, and it was repeatedly drilled into us on the course. This helped to reinforce the need to look at the problem first, and define it. This is the hard bit, to really define this, and then work out the solution.

We kept working on identifying what problem is that you are trying to solve. We learned to show a brochure / make a prototype and not to simply tell. It makes sense to show potential customers something tangible rather than ask them what they want.

We found this useful for our company. Farmers are not very involved in what our product does, but they are interested in the potential benefits. We help them grow more with less, with optimised nutrition to increase profitability and yields. These are the things they want to know about, not the tech details of the product itself.

Tell us more about the company you work for, and how you applied the learnings from the course?

FarmFlo is a startup first established in 2013, and it then really kicked off in 2014. It was founded by two brothers with a head office in Donegal, a new office in Scotland, and I’m based in Wexford!

Recently one Irish farmer signed up from Turkey. This is great and demonstrates the value of looking to Europe. We used the channels to market from the business model canvas that we learned about in the Innovation Academy course. This means we are looking at other potential markets too.
In the last year Farmflo in conjunction with Boortmalt, have established digital traceability for the malting barley used at Waterford Distillery. This is a very exciting and interesting project and helps enable Waterford Distillery to link the soil type from an individual farmer’s field with the different tastes and flavours of the whiskies that they produce.

What sort of changes did you implement after doing the Innovation Academy course?

I took the insights I learned and applied them. The clever part of new technology is to make it simple and usable. We learned lots regarding customer discovery, creating a simple interface, reducing paperwork.

What tips would you give to others thinking about doing the course?

Utilise the resources at hand, the people on the course for example. We developed good relationships, which has now developed into an alumni group.

Is there anything you would do differently if you were to do it again?

No, not really, I’d like to do it all again! It was a great opportunity to become reenergised and be really inspired by the people on it.

In Kilkenny we now meet regularly. At our last meeting we held a meeting on presentation skills with Andrew Keogh of Aristo in association with John Ryan of the Pembroke Hotel.

We hope to maintain that, and to continue to champion the UCD Innovation Academy in the south east!

For further information on the UCD Postgraduate Certificate in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Enterprise please click here.