Making it Work

Beotanics shows green shoots of growth as it predicts boom in ingredients business

Crop creator that focuses on ‘lost crops’ is forecasting a surge in international orders

Pat Fitzgerald pictured at Fitzgerald Nurseries in Stoneyford Co. Kilkenny. Picture: Dylan Vaughan

Beotanics, the Kilkenny-based business group, that specialises in the development and production of varieties of sweet potato, wasabi and yacón, is predicting a massive spike in demand, driven by its fast-growing ingredients business.

Pat Fitzgerald, the founder and chief executive, said the firm is now approaching €10 million in annual revenue, and ready to kick-start its growth through a boom in ingredient demand internationally.

The company’s ingredients business turns specialised versions of its crops into plant-based ingredients for food and beverage manufacturers around the world.

The company’s products are already in 38 markets but Fitzgerald said there was still plenty of room to grow as their crop varieties, developed over multiple generations in partnership with Louisiana State University, hit the market.

Fact Find

Founded by: Pat Fitzgerald in 1990

Staff: 53

Turnover in 2023: €10 million

“We would foresee that the company will grow exponentially, in the area of ingredients especially and crop supply chains,” Fitzgerald said, highlighting the company’s wasabi-based products and Evergold sedge grass plant.

The company, which was spun out of Fitzgerald’s 30-year-old ornamental plant business, Fitzgerald Nurseries, introduced an edible range of plant-based products from 2006, starting with the sweet potato.

“The sweet potato was the earliest innovation and it acted as a good model for what’s to come,” he said. The founder predicted a similar boom from the company’s more recent crops, the yacón and wasabi.

Out of the wasabi line, which began development in 2015, primarily comes wasabi powder, and the sweet potato is puréed and sold to clients around the world.

Yacón is the company’s most recent focus. Powder and syrup developed from the sweet crop act as a low-calorie sweetener and Beotanics is testing the products for release this year.

On future product development, the company is also investigating peanuts, chickpeas and lentils too, but Fitzgerald was clear that he wants to wring the maximum potential out of their existing line of crops rather than introduce more spinning plates into the equation.

“We could invest more into R&D, but we would like to now prove our case of what we’ve done already,” he said. “We now need to move to take the opportunities that we’ve created.”

The company’s revenue is broken down into a 40/40/20 split, between the crops business, ornamental plant business and its intellectual property (IP), which makes up the smallest chunk.

Fitzgerald said expected the crop and IP areas to grow significantly in the coming years, with their NativaLand sweet potato business - based in Portugal - a key component of that growth.

The company now employs 53 full-time staff, split between the company’s base in Kilkenny and their Portuguese crop-growing facilities, but that figure balloons during harvesting season, adding several hundred more.

Enterprise Ireland had been helpful in its support, he said, but added that it was a “tricky” situation for the state body because Beotanics’ business model was charting a new course for Irish enterprise.

“We are a very strange anomaly when it comes to primary production and manufacturing,” he said. “If you look at the dairy companies, you have the farmer and you have to dairy company - very, very clear and very well defined, industrial farming.

“The effort we're making is to create a plant-based model in Ireland,” he said, emphasising that Ireland is at a disadvantage compared to other European countries, where plant-based models are more bedded-in.

This Making It Work article is produced in partnership with Enterprise Ireland