The ifac Food and Agribusiness team were invited to attend the 7th annual Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) market update last week at the Convention Centre in Dublin.
Here are some of the key highlights.
The wider market context – Scaling down a mountain
The event opened with a welcome note from Conor O’Kelly, Chief Executive of the NTMA during which he articulated the journey of recovery that Ireland is on. He used a climbing analogy to highlight that the only way for Ireland to come down from our mountain of debt was to take our time and follow the agreed path that was set out. He highlighted the need to remove emotions out of our investment decisions and focus on sustainable ways to grow our wider economy into the future.
A focus on sustainability
This message was echoed through the morning and sustainability was the core take away from the event.
The ISIF has a very clear focus on sustainable responsible investing under the acronym: ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance). As the central theme of the event, each speaker focused on the opportunities and responsibilities that effective sustainability presents. The various panels flagged that as we are starting to see more and more once in 100 years events, there is a growing need for us all to respond and adopt more sustainably focused strategies.
Sustainability - The Role of Food and Agribusinesses
A number of leading voices from the food and agribusiness sector were also present to share their thoughts on how Sustainability will continue to impact Ireland’s future growth. Cathal Fitzgerald, Head of Food and Agriculture Investments ISIF, flagged in a pre-recorded video how Ireland has an opportunity to deliver an evergreen revolution and highlighted the potential that Bord Bia’s Origin Green initiative has the potential to differentiate Ireland’s sustainable credentials on the world stage.
Other speakers like Arana KuKutai, Co-founder of Finestre flagged the ongoing opportunity for digitisation within the agri sector and tried to address what the future of farming looks like where traditional and emerging technologies (e.g. vertical farming) work together to create a sustainable future.
From a more practical point of view, Maurice Hickey, Executive Chairman at Green Isle Foods, shared insights into the 5 steps along his company’s path to sustainability. These included, recyclable packaging, Fishery Improvement projects (FIBs) and a no food waste policy. Finally, co-founder of West Cork Distillers, John O’Connell highlighted the role that his business had in building a sustainable community in a rural economy through good business principles and understanding the positive impact that the business can have.
David Blood, co-founder of Generation closed off the event with his wide-ranging keynote that covered many aspects connected to sustainability from a business’ mission to commercial orientations. One of his key takeaways was “Don’t trade value for values”.
A fair challenge for any Irish food or agribusiness going forward.