MagGrow is a magnetic spraying technology that helps farmers grow more by using less. The system, which has been three years in development, gives better coverage than conventional crop spraying systems and also reduces spray drift by more than 80%

MagGrow CEO Gary Wickham

MagGrow CEO Gary Wickham

MagGrow: Use less, grow more spray system

By Olive Keogh – The Irish Times

MagGrow technology attaches magnetic inserts onto a sprayer which sends an electromagnetic charge into the sprayed liquid

MagGrow is a magnetic spraying technology that helps farmers grow more by using less. The system, which has been three years in development, gives better coverage than conventional crop spraying systems and also reduces spray drift by more than 80 per cent.

MagGrow was set up in 2013 by brothers Gary and Derek Wickham and business consultant David Moore. All three come from entrepreneurial backgrounds with previous start-ups behind them. MagGrow employs 12 people and is based at NovaUCD, the university’s centre for new ventures.

The idea for MagGrow came from a chance meeting in the US between Derek Wickham and inventor Ted Lenhardt. The two men got talking and the discussion turned to Lenhardt’s ideas for a new approach to crop spraying. Wickham saw the potential in Lenhardt’s idea and this led to the technology being developed and commercialised in Ireland at a cost of around €3 million.

“Conventional spraying controls drift by using large droplets of liquid but large droplets don’t give good plant deposition or coverage and both are critical for effective disease control,” says chief executive Gary Wickham. “Our system uses fine droplets that deliver more accurate results while also controlling drift. Our internationally patented technology is also simple, user-friendly and has no moving parts.

Our system uses fine droplets that deliver more accurate results while also controlling drift. Our internationally patented technology is also simple, user-friendly and has no moving parts.
— Gary Wickham, MagGrow CEO

“The MagGrow technology is based around attaching magnetic inserts onto a sprayer which sends an electromagnetic charge into the sprayed liquid,” Wickham says. “All living plants and soil have a magnetic field so the magnetically charged liquid is attracted to its target. The benefits of our technology include increased profitability, increased productivity and better environmental performance.”

The company has worked closely with UCD to develop its system which has also been independently tested as far afield as Ethiopia, Kenya and the US. “MagGrow is attractive because it reduces chemical waste, water usage, labour and energy costs,” Wickham says. “On the productivity side the gains are increased spray windows and capacity and better yield and disease control. MagGrow also reduces environmental contamination which is a big plus. Over 50 per cent of chemicals are currently lost to air drift and soil run off. Conventional spraying technology is a compromise between drift control and coverage. Our system challenges that.”

MagGrow is aimed at commercial arable farmers and horticultural producers but also at smaller enterprises. The system can be retro-fitted to existing large crop sprayers or used indoors with a backpack.

The product will be launched in Ethiopia and Kenya next month followed by Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands and Germany. The US is also a major target market for the technology. So far the venture has raised over €4.5million and has been supported by Enterprise Ireland under its High Potential Start-Ups programme.

“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,” Wickham says. “Following successful testing with our partners we will then organise regional demonstrations to key customers and opinion leaders.”

MagGrow is one of just 12 companies (out of a starting list of over 200) chosen to take part in the international Thrive Accelerator Programme in California. The accelerator is run by investment company, SVG Partners, and open to promising international start-ups in Food and AgTech.

“We were truly delighted to be selected because it puts us right in front of the big names both potential customers and funders,” Wickham says. “Being chosen also speaks volumes for the transformational benefits MagGrow has to offer. The world’s population is estimated to grow to 9 billion by 2050 and the demand for food and water will increase dramatically. With current farming methods we simply will not be able to meet this demand. We have to find better, more sustainable ways to grow and this is where MagGrow fits in.”

– OLIVE KEOGH, THE IRISH TIMES