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Thirteen Finalists Compete for €40,000 JFC Innovation Awards for Rural Business

The winner of the fourth all Ireland JFC Innovation Awards for Rural Business will be crowned in the Slieve Russell Hotel, Cavan on Monday, 12 April. Thirteen farmers and rural-based finalists from all over the country are in contention for the €40,000 prize fund. They represent the very best in rural innovation and entrepreneurship, including green energy, selling farm produce direct to the public and even bringing tourists to see the genuine Father Ted house.

The overall winner will be chosen from the four category winners and will walk away with a prize fund worth €15,000. This includes a cash prize of €5,000, mentoring and business support from Teagasc worth €5,000 and €5,000 worth of advertising space.

Entry to the competition was open to any rural-based business on the island of Ireland, either at set-up, or in the early stages of operating. Finalists went through a rigorous Dragon’s Den style selection process with Higher Ground TV presenters Paul McCarthy of Teagasc and Peter Young of the Irish Farmers’ Journal. Three of the finalists come from north of the border, two from Clare, two from Meath and one each from Cork, Kerry, Kilkenny, Limerick, Mayo and Wexford. Interestingly, two of the finalists have honed in on the opportunities for quality lamb, with groups of farmers selling directly to the public in their local areas and further afield.

The JFC Innovation Awards for Rural Business are sponsored by Tuam based manufacturing company JFC in association with Teagasc, the Department of Agriculture & Rural Development NI (DARD), LEADER and the Irish Farmers’ Journal.

Speaking in advance of the awards, Teagasc’s Paul McCarthy said:”Farm family income has been hit hard by the recession. Commodity prices have fallen to the point where even the best farms are struggling and off-farm employment has declined by 30 per cent. With the national unemployment rate now standing at almost 13 per cent, in many instances other family members are now back on the family farm, unemployed. Several are now looking to set up alternative enterprises and new businesses to provide extra income and to build a more sustainable future. The finalists in this competition are great examples of what can be achieved by adding value to existing resources through innovation.”