Tipperary and Waterford students scoop Grant Thornton Emerging Business Award

University College Dublin's Emma Murphy from Cashel and Waterford Institute of Technology's Lorna Power from Lismore win Grant Thornton Emerging Business Award.

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A final year Agricultural Science student at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) and her Cashel business partner won the Grant Thornton Emerging Business Award at the recent 2018 Enterprise Ireland Student Entrepreneur Awards in NUI Galway. 

PROgress Equine began as a college project with advice coming from entrepreneurship, tech transfer and biotechnology experts at WIT.

Lismore’s Lorna Power came up with the innovative business idea as part of the Rural Entrepreneurship module on the BSc (Hons) in Agricultural Science degree at WIT. She then developed a business plan for a sustainably produced innovative equine feed with a higher than average protein concentrate over the course of the 12-week module. She collaborated on the idea with her friend Emma Murphy, a University College Dublin Business and Law student from Cashel and co-founder of PROgress Equine. 

PROgress Equine is a company which formulates and produces concentrate feedstuffs for equines that is both environmentally sustainable and nutritionally superior to existing products.

“Our main focus is protein, a key nutrient for the healthy growth and development of bone and muscle in equines. By using innovative ingredients, we have identified superior sources of protein. Our source contains a guaranteed 50-55% protein and higher levels of essential amino acids than existing protein sources, such as soya bean. By adding this innovative protein source to our formulations, PROgress Equine provides equine rations that are more nutritionally beneficial at a similar price to products currently on the market,” Lorna explains.

One of the keys to the potential of PROgress Equine is a growing population. “By 2050, there will be nine billion people on the planet. Using our current method of producing protein, we will not be able to meet the planet’s projected protein needs,” Lorna continues.

Cashel's Emma adds: “PROgress Equine’s protein requires substantially less land and water to produce, making it more environmentally sustainable than soya bean in the long-term. PROgress Equine aims to initially target large studs and equine breeders with a fully formulated ration in Ireland, Europe and the USA. Going forward, PROgress Equine’s mission is to transform the landscape of how we produce animal feed, both now and in the future.”

The two students reached the final from over 1,500 entries nationwide, having been supported and mentored by Rachel O’Dowd (lecturer in entrepreneurship at WIT), Ciarán Cullen (manager at WIT’s ArcLabs), James O’Sullivan (WIT’s technology transfer manager) and Philomena Treacy (WIT’s Technology Transfer Office).

This year celebrated the 37th year of the prestigious Student Entrepreneur Awards, which are co-sponsored by Cruickshank Intellectual Property Attorneys and Grant Thornton and are open to all third level colleges across Ireland. The Local Enterprise Office also came on board as a co-sponsor for the awards this year. Grant Thornton will provide business plan development advice to the finalists, who also hope to apply to the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers programme starting this autumn at WIT’s ArcLabs research and innovation hub.