Heike John works in Enterprise Ireland’s Dusseldorf office. In this interview, she describes her work as a market advisor, introducing innovative Irish agritech products to the market.
What area of agritech do you focus on?
My area of agritech deals with agricultural machinery and components for the agricultural machinery OEMs here in the German market. Irish agritech manufacturers in most cases are niche players in Germany and Austria, offering specialised solutions to farmers and agricultural contractors. At the moment, the German market is doing well and that means that suppliers and sub-suppliers have opportunities to sell to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and dealerships.
How do you assist businesses in your region?
When I am contacted by an Irish company, the first thing I do is learn about their product and then develop a strategy in collaboration with the client for them to enter the German market, to grow the market or to introduce a new product. It is important that companies supported by Enterprise Ireland [the national export agency] understand the cost and time required to start exporting to a new market, and also the steps required.
For example, from a technical perspective, they will need to understand if their agritech products will suit the German market and also its specific regions. Also, they will need to be aware of their competitors, how they promote their products and what market share might exist for them.
Furthermore, I can introduce clients to ‘pathfinders’, who are market experts and can do a short assignment to provide clients with actual, tangible feedback from the market on a product.
For existing clients, I try to find new opportunities for them while promoting Irish strengths at events such as EuroTier, which is one of the world’s most comprehensive exhibitions for professional animal husbandry and livestock professionals, hosted in Hanover. This November around 18 Irish clients will exhibit at EuroTier, some at the Irish Pavilion organised by Enterprise Ireland. It is a high-profile show and in the past Irish ministers and ambassadors have attended.
Recently, we brought 12 German agricultural contractors over to Ireland who found it very interesting to meet Irish manufacturers and local agricultural contractors who showed them how their machinery is used on Irish farms. The initiative helped the Irish companies to get market exposure and there has been great interest and initial sales due to the trip. Ultimately, it helps Irish companies to potentially get dealerships for their agritech products.
Who are you working with at the moment?
Our clients are niche players in Germany and have very strong equipment and technology in the dairy and the grassland sectors. Ireland traditionally has a lot of expertise in these areas and our clients offer innovative solutions for German farmers.
For example, there are certain Irish methods of farming which are not that well known to Germany, and the technologies which go with these methods are of relevance here in the market and generate interest.
Why should companies work with Enterprise Ireland?
We are a very trusted and worthwhile resource that has the same objective as the companies we support – we want them to build sustainable, long-term businesses in Germany and Austria. And if we do not have in-house expertise, we have contacts and local networks to assist in any way. Overall, it’s a great way to enter a new market and to grow existing ones.
What does a typical day look like for your work?
There is a lot of variety in my job and therefore no two days are exactly the same. Generally, I talk to my clients, research markets, and communicate with potential dealers and distributors for my clients’ agritech products.
I also have follow-up on introductions which I have made or give feedback from pathfinders to the Irish companies involved in the project.
There are days when I come across an opportunity for another market sector, such as cleantech, which happened recently. In that case, I contacted my colleagues and informed them about it which created new leads for Irish companies.
Every day gives me great satisfaction. I have been with Enterprise Ireland for 23 years and I love learning about companies and working with and helping my clients to become successful in the German market.
What are the main trends in agritech products in Germany right now?
German manufacturers of agricultural machinery achieved record half-year growth in the first half of 2018, with an increase of 14% in turnover to a good €5 billion.
This strong half-yearly increase is largely due to the dynamic developments in the markets in the eurozone. The German market remains in leading position; here sales from business with local sales partners increased by 19% in the first two quarters, reaching €1.4 billion. (Source: VDMA)
Trends in the industry are: smart farming, farm management systems and solutions that support farmers to operating more efficiently. Additionally, irrigation is an important trend, as water is such an important and scarce resource in many parts of the world.