This post is part of our Future of Agriculture series, in which we interview the leading founders and executives who are on the front lines of the industry to get a better understanding of what problems the industry is facing, what trends are taking place, and what the future looks like.
The following is an interview we recently had with Gary Wickham, CEO of MagGrow.
1. What’s the history of MagGrow? Where and how did you begin?
GW: MagGrow came from a chance meeting a few years ago, when my brother, Derek, met Ted Lenhardt, a Florida-based inventor with a background in agriculture spanning 40 years.
Ted had developed the basic concept for what is now MagGrow. From his extensive research, he was aware that existing pesticide spray technologies for crops were a compromise between coverage and drift control, which meant that approximately 70% of what is sprayed during conventional pesticide spraying is wasted.
I invested in the concept along with David Moore and acquired the IP from Ted Lenardt, who is still an advisor and shareholder of MagGrow.
In 2013, MagGrow was launched in Nova UCD with just two employees along with backing from Enterprise Ireland, and since then employee numbers have risen to almost thirty. MagGrow operates across three global footprints; the USA, Canada, and Europe. The head office is now located at Orchard House, on Clonskeagh Road in Dublin, Ireland.
2. What specific problem does MagGrow solve? How do you solve it?
GW: To meet the increasing population, the world needs to grow the same amount of food in the next 40 years as it has in last 10,000 years combined. Yet, today, agriculture alone uses over 80% of the total available water in many parts of the world, and this daunting challenge can only be met by sustainable innovation.
One of the biggest problems facing all farmers worldwide is pesticide drift. The world needs crop protection, as, without it, it is estimated we would have only 30% of the food we currently grow. The net effect of drift is contamination, farmers suing farmers, governments suing farmers, new buffer zones, new regulations, etc.
Over 70% of the $60 billion in crop protection products sprayed is wasted using conventional technology. However, to meet regulatory compliance, farmers need to find a balance between drift control and crop coverage.
Farmers use larger droplets to reduce spray drift, however, these larger droplets mean that the solution runs off the plant and into the soil, rivers and streams, causing contamination. All farmers want to use smaller droplets to increase coverage, but this isn’t possible with conventional technology.
This is where MagGrow comes in.
MagGrow is a patented, proprietary technology for droplet formation that yields superior spray drift reduction and spray coverage performance. It solves the problem by reducing drift by up to 70% and improving coverage by at least 20-40%, depending upon the crop and spraying conditions.
MagGrow delivers significant savings in pesticide usage, uses less scarce resources such as water and labor, extends spray windows and meets environmental and legislative requirements. Critically, MagGrow reduces the risk of pesticide drift into neighboring fields.
3. What’s the future of chemical application tech in Agriculture?
Prediction #1: MagGrow achieving a global footprint
Prediction #2: Increased use of biologics
Prediction #3: Autonomous tractor spraying using artificial intelligence and sensor technology.
4. What are the top 3 technologies trends you’re seeing in Agriculture?
Trend #1: Education due to the need to keep pace with technical change
Trend #2: Big Data
Trend #3: Robots
5. Why is the agriculture industry ripe for disruption?
GW: The need to find a solution for our world’s insatiable appetite for food has been well publicized. The change in demand will have a dramatic effect on agricultural output and add complexity to an already complicated industry. The need for 70% more food while using less scarce resources such as land and water requires adoption of innovative and sustainable products and technology. This presents major challenges but also huge opportunity. In fact, AgTech investment is at an all-time high with advances in digital agriculture, artificial intelligence and other Ag precision technology.
About Gary Wickham
Gary Wickham, founding member & CEO of MagGrow, is an accomplished and highly experienced entrepreneur & businessman. Gary began his career in Henkel Loctite Ireland, where he held several senior management positions which included building Loctite’s first ever cleanroom facility for the Biomedical and Microelectronic product ranges.
Following his MBA, Gary joined Reheis Pharma Ireland as Managing Director with a turnover of approximately $50 million. In 2003, Gary co-founded Stay City apartment hotels, a highly successful international business with a turnover of $75 million-plus and over 500 employees.