Catalyst Searches for Northern Irish Innovators with Invent Competition

Catalyst Searches for Northern Irish Innovators with Invent Competition

Catalyst launches its annual Invent competition and is hoping to attract more than 100 innovators and entrepreneurs from across Northern Ireland. 

Sponsored by Bank of Ireland UK, Invent, now in its 11th year shows no signs of losing momentum. Created to discover products with strong innovation and global commercial potential, more than 1,200 applicants have already been through the process since its inception in 2009.

Headline partner for the competition, Gavin Kennedy, Head of Business Banking, Northern Ireland at Bank of Ireland UK commented “We are very excited to continue our partnership on Invent 2020, as we embark into a new decade of discovery for the next wave of innovative commercial ideas in Northern Ireland.  For us, this is about contributing to and being an integral part of a community designed to enable growth in knowledge, confidence and opportunities for Northern Ireland’s innovative and entrepreneurial talent. Innovation, creative thinking and agility are fast becoming a necessity for all businesses and each year’s applicants continue to inspire the local business community as we strive for a vibrant sustainable economy in Northern Ireland.”

One Invent success story is CropSafe, an AI- and satellite-based farming solution invented by John McElhone (19) and Micheál McLaughlin (19). Since winning the Agri-Science category in Invent 2019, these two school friends have seen their product go from strength to strength and are launching it internationally later this month. 

CropSafe is a mobile app that utilises artificial intelligence and satellite imagery to photograph crops from over 100 satellites orbiting the earth. The CropSafe app provides farmers with detailed reports on their crop health, giving them tools to accurately detect diseases and predict yields weeks in advance.

Over the next 12 months, the duo will be working extensively with farmers globally to tailor CropSafe as a solution to fit into the average farmers’ everyday lives. Many rural farms are without an internet connection and CropSafe is utilising a special fleet of satellites and cellular networks to bring modern crop surveying to the most remote farms on earth.

Initially believing they were too small and early stage to enter Invent, John and Micheál continued with the application and were delighted with the outcome.

John McElhone said, “No matter how new your idea, business or product, Invent is the competition for you. Throughout the process, Catalyst guided us through workshops and mentor meetings to refine our idea into a real-life working product. The partners that worked with us provided amazing legal and financial advice from Bank of Ireland UK to shortcut some steep learning curves. The key to making Invent work is have a vision for the next 12 months, and then think bigger.”

Micheál McLaughlin added, “Also the moral support from the Catalyst team and the start-ups together provides a buzz that is hard to recreate outside other programmes. You will meet new friends and being so close with them on their start-ups journey makes for an amazing community!”

The Invent competition offers the applicants from a range of sectors including Engineering, Agri-Science, Life & Health, Enterprise software, Electronics and Creative media the opportunity to get support, gain valuable exposure to a network of business experts and influencers and potentially scoop part of the £33,000 prize fund. 

Invent is open to anyone who is a resident of Northern Ireland and offers an opportunity for enthusiastic and passionate innovators and entrepreneurs to be part of a unique competition.

Bank of Ireland Renews Title Sponsorship of Open Farm Weekend

Bank of Ireland Renews Title Sponsorship of Open Farm Weekend

Open Farm Weekend, which takes place on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 June is delighted to announce that Bank of Ireland is continuing its title sponsorship of the province-wide agri-food initiative.

Led by the Ulster Farmers’ Union, the initiative, now in its 9th year, seeks to reconnect the public with where their local food comes from and offers an opportunity to meet the farmers and processors who produce it.

Edwin Poots, Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs said: ‘It is vital that we as an industry help to educate and make consumers aware of the work of the agri-food industry and share how our high quality, nutritious and award winning food is produced. My Department’s continued support in the delivery of Open farm Weekend helps meet that task.

“I thank the Bank of Ireland for their continued commitment to this important initiative, to the Ulster Farmers’ Union in leading delivery along with all the other supporting partners. To the farms that are participating, I know that it can be daunting opening up your farms to the general public but I commend the hard work and passion that the host farms put into making the weekend so successful.”

To date over 100,000 people, including children via the schools programme, have visited working farms in Northern Ireland to hear the story behind our food and gain an understanding of our world-renowned, quality farming practices. Visitors also gain insights into how the countryside is being shaped and cared for and the current strength of Northern Ireland’s ‘food tourism’ potential.

Richard Primrose, Bank of Ireland UK Agri-Business Manager, said; “Bank of Ireland is committed to supporting all agri-food related businesses through a range of products and services. We understand how vital this industry is to the rural communities within NI. The growth and prosperity of the wider NI economy also relies heavily on a thriving agri-food industry. Now more than ever, consumers are keen to learn about where their local produce originates from and we believe that Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend provides the perfect opportunity to practically illustrate and educate consumers on how our local food is produced. It also provides a fantastic opportunity for farmers who are keen to showcase their business and build relationships with people from their local community.

“Our support demonstrates our commitment to the local agriculture industry. We know the hard work that farmers put into running their businesses and initiatives like Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend help to engage with the public and encourages more support towards local produce, which in turn benefits the farmers.”

Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend chairman and UFU deputy president David Brown added; “We are delighted that Bank of Ireland recognises the importance of this initiative and we are indebted to them for their continued support. To have their backing helps us to plan ahead, build on our brand awareness and attract new audiences to want to visit our participating farms. Their support has allowed this fantastic event to grow and we are thrilled to see new host farms continuing to come on-board for 2020.

Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend was established in 2012 to showcase our farming industry and the wonderful work our farmers do. Its focus is to help the public, particularly those from a non-farming background to better understand how our food is produced and to raise awareness of how supply chains work, through our local food industry.  The passion and enthusiasm, shown by farm participants over the years, not only for farming but also for the whole experience of opening up their farms for Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend has been truly inspirational.” 

Pulse PR Hits the Press

Pulse PR Hits the Press

Pulse PR started 2020 off to a great start with a cover story spread in leading business magazine, Ulster Business.

Celebrating its 10th year in business in 2020, Managing Director, Grainne McGarvey shared her journey since establishing the business, her evolving client portfolio and what the future holds. Over the last decade Pulse PR has worked with some of Ireland’s leading brands including O’Brien’s, Argento, Applegreen and Belleek and has also had success with start-up companies in the digital and tech sectors. The future is bright as Pulse PR continues to provide excellent results for businesses across Northern Ireland and is looking forward to another successful decade in the industry.  

Grainne McGarvey says, “People told me that I was crazy going out on my own in the midst of a financial downturn but ten years on and I’m delighted to say I have weathered the storm. There have been twists and turns along the way but overall the journey has been a positive one. Communications change with every new year but that’s what keeps it interesting. I’m looking forward to seeing what challenges and opportunities the next ten years will bring.”

Check out the full interview here.

South Belfast Businesses Launch Charity Recipe Book

South Belfast Businesses Launch Charity Recipe Book

Ormeau Credit Union has joined forces with businesses in South Belfast to produce a recipe book to raise money for the Welcome Organisation. 

Including recipes from well-known eateries like Greens Pizza, Bia Rebel, General Merchants and Kaffe-O, the book aims to raise much needed funds for the homeless charity that provides potentially life-saving services to more than 1,400 people in Belfast every year. 

One such user of the service is Erin who ended up homeless after a difficult childhood. She said, “I ended up sleeping on the streets which was terrifying. The town is a very different place at night. I am still on my journey, working through all the stuff that has troubled me since I was a child. But now I’ve got a friend on my journey and that’s the Welcome Organisation. I felt like I belonged somewhere and I wasn’t alone anymore.”

Established in Belfast city centre in 1997, the Welcome Organisation adopts a non-judgemental approach to addressing homelessness issues. All its services are based on the principles of harm reduction delivered through low-threshold services. It accepts people for ‘where they are at’ as opposed to where others think they should be.

It was particularly through its outreach work in South Belfast that prompted the Ormeau Credit Union to support the charity. 

Ormeau Credit Union Operations Manager, Marie George said, “Credit Unions are known for serving the needs of the community where they are based, and this mirrored the work carried out by the Welcome Organisation in our community. 

“We are delighted to donate the proceeds of the recipe book to the charity to support the excellent work it does in our catchment area. We would encourage all our members, as well as foodies and residents in South Belfast to purchase the recipe books because every penny raised will go towards the Welcome Organisation.”

The recipe book has a suggested price of £5 and can be purchased directly from Ormeau Credit Union. Proceeds will do directly towards The Welcome Organisation’s range of services for people affected by homelessness in Belfast, including their Drop-in Centre, Street Outreach services, Crisis Accommodation for Women, Floating Support service and Welcome Home furniture project. Welcome’s Street Outreach service serves the streets of South Belfast and beyond 17 hours a day – from 7am-2am. It provides on the ground support for people who are homeless. If you see someone who is homeless and in need of help you can contact the Street Outreach service on 07894931047.

Participating restaurants are: 

  • Bia Rebel Ramen
  • Kaffe-O
  • First Floor Bistro
  • General Merchants
  • Greens
  • The Pavillion
  • Shed
  • Soul Food
  • 387 Ormeau Road
Bumper Numbers Attended Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend

Bumper Numbers Attended Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend

18 farms across Northern Ireland that opened their gates to the public enjoyed a busy weekend with more than 16,000 people attending the recent Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend event. 

With activities such as sheep shearing, pony rides, animal displays, games, local produce markets, entertainment, and cookery demonstrations from the Livestock and Meat Commission, this free event provided the perfect chance for members of the public to find out more about their local farm, reconnect with the countryside, meet the farmer and glean a better understanding of where their food comes from. 

This was the inaugural year for many farms such as Ranelly Farm in Omagh, CAFRE Equine Centre in Enniskillen, D&D Holland in Articlave and The Orble in Dervock, with the latter welcoming 2,100 visitors who helped raise £18,000 through an auction for the Causeway Down’s Syndrome Support Group. 

David Brown, Deputy President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union said, “We are delighted to learn that more than half of the visitors that attended this year had never attended Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend before, reinforcing our belief that members of the public still have an avid interest in learning more about the local agri-sector. 

“The farms and sponsors put in a lot of effort to make sure the Open Farm Weekend runs smoothly and I want to take this opportunity to thank them and of course every person that attended one of the farms. Although the weekend only runs over three days, giving the public access to farms to learn more about where their food comes from will be beneficial for the sector in the long-term.”

Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend has been running since 2012 and has attracted in excess of 100,000 visitors. The event is also sponsored by Asda, Cranswick, the Livestock and Meat Commission, NFU Mutual and Irish Farmers Journal and supported by Food NI, CAFRE, DAERA and the YFCU. 
Wendy Gallagher, FarmLiaisonfor Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend said, “The feedback from both farms and visitors was excellent. Children from non-rural areas loved feeding the animals that they would never usually get a chance to hold and see while their parents created some long-lasting family memories. We are already planning for the 2020 event and would encourage farms to get in touch if they are interested in participating next year.”