Entries are now open for Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Arena Awards at the National Ploughing Championships

·        €10,000 prize for best start-up winner amongst the awards in this year’s competition
·        Applications open for this year’s Innovation Arena awards until 7th June
·        Return of the ‘Agritech Hub’ at the Innovation Arena, a key exhibition platform at one of Europe’s largest outdoor events

Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Arena Awards will return to the 2024 National Ploughing Championships (NPC), and the competition is now open for entries.

The Innovation Arena, which is hosted in partnership with the National Ploughing Association (NPA), is an annual exhibition platform showcasing cutting-edge solutions from Irish agritech companies and innovators to thousands of visitors over the course of the three-day event.

Applications are now being accepted for this year’s Innovation Arena Awards, which will be held on the first day of the Championships, and entries are being invited from Irish-owned companies, research and academia, who have pioneering innovations with the potential to deliver solutions for the agriculture sector that could help to optimise and futureproof the industry.  Those who are successful in their submission will automatically be offered an exhibition spot within the Innovation Arena.

There will a number of awards in this year’s competition, with a focus on applications from start-up companies under five years old, and established companies that are focused on scaling and innovation. There will be an overall start-up award winner, who will receive a €10,000 prize as well as mentoring supports from specialist Enterprise Ireland advisors.

At this year’s Enterprise Ireland Innovation Arena at the National Ploughing Championships, there will also be an opportunity for previous participants to apply for a space in the popular ‘Agritech Hub’.  This is an important exhibition space which gives Irish-owned agritech companies the opportunity to return to the NPC and display their progress to a varied audience, which also includes domestic and international visitors and buyers.

The winners of this year’s competition will be announced at a ceremony at Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Arena at the 2024 National Ploughing Championships, which returns to Ratheniska, Co Laois, from 17th to 19th September.

Leo Clancy, CEO, Enterprise Ireland, said: “Enterprise Ireland is committed to supporting Irish businesses to grow and scale, and to become global leaders in their field, and this includes pioneering Irish agritech businesses that are having an impact around the world. Irish agritech innovators are shaping the future, and new ideas and cutting-edge products have never been in greater demand to deliver solutions to global challenges, with a particular focus on sustainability as we strive to work together to protect our planet and futureproof this sector. Working with the NPA, Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Arena provides an important platform for Irish companies in this sector, bringing together some of the brightest minds, and I would encourage all entrepreneurs who are interested to consider applying.”

The Innovation Arena at the National Ploughing Championships is a key platform for showcasing Irish capabilities in this sector, as the NPC annually attracts over 250,000 visitors over the course of the three-day event.

Anna May McHugh, NPA Managing Director, said: “The Innovation Arena proves to be a massive draw at the National Ploughing Championships every year, as it puts a spotlight on the Irish change makers who are making an impact around the world.  We are delighted to continue this successful partnership with Enterprise Ireland again for this year’s Innovation Arena, as it annually delivers cutting edge ideas and technologies, which shapes the future of agriculture globally.”

James Maloney, Senior Development Adviser, Enterprise Ireland, said“In a sector where the landscape is constantly changing, the importance of initiatives like the Innovation Arena, in partnership with the NPA, have never been more important. Reflecting the ever-evolving demands placed on the sector, in this year’s competition there will be a focus on innovations and solutions which address issues across animal science and technology, agri-engineering, digital technologies, animal health and nutrition, sustainability and climate action, and farm health and safety.”

To enter this year’s Innovation Arena Awards, please click here.

The closing date for entries is 5pm on 7th June 2024.

For more information:
Innovation Arena Awards – innovationarena@enterprise-ireland.com 
Media queries – press.office@enterprise-ireland.com


Labour of loaf! Mayo woman’s award-winning brown bread to hit ALDI shelves nationwide

  • Loretta McGuire’s incredible brown bread on sale in 161 ALDI stores nationwide from January 22nd
  • Loretta was crowned winner of National Brown Bread Baking Competition at last year’s National Ploughing Championships, taking home €15,000

Loretta McGuire from Co. Mayo, the winner of the 2023 National Brown Baking Competition sponsored by ALDI in association with the National Ploughing Association and the Irish Countrywomen’s Association, will see her award-winning brown bread go on sale in 161 ALDI stores nationwide for a 12-month period.  

An enthusiastic home baker, Loretta beat out stiff competition to be crowned the winner of last year’s National Brown Bread Baking Competition with judges dazzled by the bread’s taste and texture. Now ALDI shoppers can taste this hearty, rustic loaf for themselves when Loretta’s Brown Bread €1.99/600g goes on sale from January 22nd 

The bread will be produced for ALDI by O’Hara’s of Foxford, a family-owned company based in Loretta’s native Co. Mayo. ALDI has a longstanding relationship with O’Hara’s of Foxford with the company supplying a number of bread and confectionery products to ALDI.   

Last year’s National Brown Bread Baking Competition final took place in the ALDI Marquee at the National Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska, Co. Laois. Eight amateur bakers from across Ireland competed against one another over the course of a hotly contested two-day bake off. Following much deliberation, Loretta’s bread was judged to be a cut above the rest and she was named the overall winner, taking home a grand prize of €15,000.  

The National Brown Bread Baking Competition aims to showcase the finest amateur bakers and promote the art of brown bread baking across Ireland. Since the competition was brought back in 2014, it is a very popular event at the National Ploughing Championships, attracting hundreds of entrants each year.  

Speaking ahead of the launch of her new brown bread, Loretta McGuire said: “Winning the National Brown Bread Baking Competition has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. When I was baking in my kitchen, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that someday I would see my very own brown bread stocked on supermarket shelves. I am so grateful to ALDI for this opportunity and I look forward to sharing Loretta’s Brown Bread with people all over Ireland – from my kitchen to yours!” 

Laurence Kelly, Buying Director at ALDI, said: “ALDI has been a proud sponsor and supporter of the National Brown Bread Baking Competition along with our partners in the National Ploughing Association and Irish Countrywomen’s Association for over 10 years. Last year’s competition was one to remember and confirmed not only that Ireland is home to a huge number of gifted bakers but that the tradition of brown bread baking is alive and well. On behalf of everyone in ALDI, I wish to extend my congratulations to Loretta on her win. We are proud to stock her high-quality, locally produced bread at an affordable price point and look forward to sharing it with our customers nationwide.”  

NPA Managing Director Anna May McHugh said: “We would like to offer our heartfelt congratulation to Loretta on being named the winner of this year’s National Brown Bread Baking Competition. It fills me with pride to see the competition continue to endure and remain as popular as ever since its inception in the early 1950s with hundreds of the most talented bakers from all over the country competing to be named ‘The Best Brown Bread Baker in Ireland’.”

Loretta’s Brown Bread €1.99/600g is now available in all 161 ALDI stores

The 93rd National Ploughing Championships will take place in Ratheniska, Co. Laois in 2024

Europe’s largest outdoor event, “The National Ploughing Championships” is set to return next year to the central and scenic location of Ratheniska, Co Laois from September 17th to 19th for the third year in a row.

The well-liked site was confirmed as an excellent location for next year’s event at the National Ploughing Championships prize-giving ceremony attended by over 500 in Portlaoise.  Speaking after the announcement the NPA Managing  Director Anna May McHugh said “The NPA are delighted to be holding the National Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska, Co Laois again next year.  Feedback from landowners, the local community and the wider public has been very positive and all were enthusiastic to see a return to Co. Laois.”

“It worked well as a location this year despite the inclement weather conditions.  The site has proved popular for several reasons including its location in the middle of Ireland.”

Anna May McHugh also congratulated all of the winners who were awarded at today’s Prize-Giving Banquet.  Irish Ploughing has never been so well represented on the global stage and is the envy of other nations with the historic back to back wins of the Republic of Ireland team at the recent World Ploughing Contest in Latvia with both Eamonn Tracey from Carlow & Wexford’s John Whelan being crowned Supreme World Ploughing Champions in their respective classes.   In addition, there was a magnificent result at the European Ploughing Championships with Jer Coakley from Cork winning first place gold and Dan Donnelly from Wexford securing the Reserve European Ploughing Champion position.


Sun shines on the final day of this year’s National Ploughing Championships

As the sun sets and  the traffic flows from the car parks this evening, the total attendance figure for the 2023 National Ploughing Championships came to a total of 200,550 over the three days, there was a wonderful atmosphere today with exhibitors and visitors alike thoroughly enjoying themselves on the final day of this year’s ‘Ploughing’.       

Speaking at the close of business, NPA Managing Director Anna May McHugh said “Despite experiencing a very wet start on Tuesday, the overall mood for this year’s Ploughing has been incredibly upbeat and positive.  With so much for visitors to enjoy from quality livestock & serious machinery to fashion, playground, innovations, crafts & cookery competitions and sports stars galore there was something for every member of the family to enjoy.”

Attending today Tánaiste Michéal Martin, returning early from the United Nations meeting in New York, congratulated the NPA on another great year, he paid tribute to Anna May McHugh, the NPA, gardai, staff and the several hundred volunteers required to host an event of its scale and scope.

The much anticipated National Brown Bread Baking Competition final took place in the Aldi tent in front of an audience of several hundred. The overall winner in first place was Loretta McGuire from Mayo, who was absolutely thrilled with her win. 

In the ploughing competition Eamonn Tracey from Carlow won the overall Conventional class, while West Cork man Jer Coakley won the Reversible Ploughing competition.  

Wishing you all a very safe journey home and looking forward to next year already.