A Belfast software firm specialising in agri-management systems has been bought over by the global Grosvenor Estate, in a deal which will see the local company expand its presence and workforce here.
Wheatsheaf Investments, part of the Grosvenor Estate led by the Duke of Westminster, has acquired a majority stake in the leading web-based livestock management business- the first ever buy out of a company invested in by business angels from Halo, the NI business angel network.
FarmWizard’s software, which is primarily used to monitor data, is utilised across the world, including America, South Africa, South America, New Zealand and Australia.
Customers in the UK include suppliers for major supermarkets such as Waitrose.
The company developed the world’s first cloud-based agricultural software solution and this can be integrated with a range of farm data sources to provide a simple user platform for the farmer.
The business will continue to be led by Terry Canning, who founded the business in 2005.
“The Grosvenor Estate, through Wheatsheaf, has a clear vision for how technology is going to help feed the world’s growing population,” he said.
“I am delighted that FarmWizard is going to play a part in making that vision a reality.
“Our technology is user-friendly and is already used in thousands of farms in the UK. It’s all about effective management of farm resources, and of course, traceability, which has never been more important.”
The deal could see the company triple in size over the next couple of years.
The company has received investment from two business angels from Halo, including Fermanagh businessman Pat Blake who backed the company in 2007.
“Not only is the company doing remarkable work transforming the world of food production, but Terry, as an individual, is hugely investable,” said Mr Blake.
Alan Watts, director of the Halo programme based at the Northern Ireland Science Park said FarmWizard’s success was a vindication of the angel investing model.
“Pat Blake invested at an early stage in this company via Halo and has now very profitably sold his shares. On top of this, as an angel, he receives EIS tax relief.
“Examples like this can only encourage other successful business people to look seriously at Halo and angel investing as a genuine way to increase their investment.”
Describing FarmWizard as an innovative software platform, Wheatsheaf chief investment officer, Anthony James said it had been proven to help farmers be more efficient and better manage their resources.
“This acquisition complements our existing portfolio of businesses and, with our support, we believe it will help more farms across the world to produce food more efficiently and help meet the demands of a growing global population,” he said.