Dublin Startup Stories: MagGrow

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Dublin startups tell their stories.

Meet Gary Wickam from MagGrow.

Tell us about your product/service.
MagGrow is a pioneering patented magnetic agricultural spraying technology system. It provides better coverage than conventional crop spraying systems and reduces spray drift by more than 80 pc. The MagGrow technology works by attaching magnetic inserts onto a sprayer which sends an electromagnetic positive and negative charge into the sprayed pesticide. All living plants have a magnetic field so the magnetically charged liquid is attracted to them. The technology is simple to use, user-friendly, and has no moving parts.

What inspired you to start the company?
The idea came from a chance meeting in the US with Ted Lenhardt, an inventor and technical specialist with over 40 years’ experience in agriculture. Ted had a very innovative idea, and we saw the potential in it. We needed independent research as well as government backing and support so we decided to take the idea and commercialised it in Ireland.  The company was established in 2013 in NovaUCD. We recently opened an office in San Francisco and began working with Dole (the biggest fruit and vegetable producer in the world).  

What market are you targeting and how big is it?
MagGrow is aimed at commercial arable farmers and horticultural producers worldwide. The market is enormous with over 500 million small farm holders alone worldwide. We have launched the product in Ethiopia, Kenya and the US, and we will launch it later this year in Ireland, the UK and the Netherlands.

What’s your business model?
We are taking a ‘launch to learn’ approach to sales and marketing where we identify and partner with innovative and influential customers in each market. Following successful testing with our partners, we then organise regional demonstrations to key customers and opinion leaders.

What was the funding process like?
We have raised 5.5 million to date. Because the technology is a potential game changer for the agricultural spraying sector, getting people interested was not difficult. We closed up investments by showing investors a clear strategy, an ability to execute, and a strong team with prior startup experience.

What are the biggest challenges your business faces today?
The biggest challenge for any patented business is protecting the IP (intellectual property). We have a clear IP strategy which involves patent filing and protection, a distinct business model, working with large customers, and aligning ourselves with key partners to differentiate our IP and achieve a fast route to market.

What do you think motivated your investors to write that cheque?
Our investors were very excited by the technology and the many benefits it delivers to our customers. They believed in the team who all have significant and successful prior startup and scaling experience.

What milestones do you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We plan to hit revenue targets of 3 million, recruit approximately 30 staff, and complete another fund raising round of 3.5 million.

What advice can you offer companies in Dublin who are just starting out?
Be prepared to work very hard. Find people you can trust and who have a similar work ethic. Network like crazy as your next key hire, investor or customer may be somewhere out there. Focus, try to not stretch yourself, and watch your cash-flow. Find a mentor who you can bounce ideas off of as it can be very lonely at the top, especially in the early stages when your team is small. Enterprise Ireland offers a good mentorship program. Finally, don’t forget your family as you will need their support and understanding more than ever. Enjoy the ride!

Tell us one (or more) things you love about Dublin as a startup community and as a city?
For a city of its size, Dublin boasts a significant number of innovation centres, business accelerators, and startup incubators, which contributes to a great cross share of ideas and a cosmopolitan atmosphere in the startup community. I am truly lucky to have been born, raised, educated and to live in this great city. In what other major capital city can you have that buzz plus go for a walk in the mountains, enjoy a day on a fabulous beach, or share fantastic food with family and friends with so many great restaurants to choose from?

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