Arc-net beefed up with 50 new posts in Belfast
A Belfast butcher-turned IT expert is creating 50 new jobs.
Kieran Kelly, who left his family's meat business to forge a career in data security, founded technology outfit arc-net last year.
He's now growing the business by another 50 staff - with 25 of those based in Northern Ireland.
The Belfast-based firm provides a technology platform to protectively mark and trace meat products from farm to fork using the animal's DNA.
Arc-net is now set for significant growth after graduating from Entrepreneurial Spark, which has a 'hatchery' in Belfast, powered by Ulster Bank.
The firm recently secured contracts with several global businesses and has two offices in Belfast, one in Edinburgh and it also has a base in San Francisco in the US.
The 50 new jobs will be split evenly between the firm's offices in Belfast and Edinburgh.
Arc-net employed two people when Mr Kelly entered Entrepreneurial Spark in 2015 for mentoring and support and he said participation in the programme has radically advanced the company's evolution.
"The Entrepreneurial Spark experience has been transformative, helping me to really focus the product on its best application - the food industry," he said.
"I've also had fantastic support with pitching and marketing, which have been invaluable in winning business with the large companies we are now working with.
"We currently employ 15 people, but are just about to begin further recruitment to bring this up to 50 to meet demand for the solution.
"Roles will be in development, sales and marketing, and data analysis, and they will be based in Belfast and Edinburgh."
Food fraud impacts consumer confidence, with the horse meat scandal propelling the issue into the headlines in 2014.
It is estimated to cost the global industry $30bn (£23bn) to $40bn (£31bn) a year, with an estimated one in three food organisations affected.
The company is currently working with the Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS) at Queen's University, Belfast, Cranswick PLC, and various Northern Ireland-based red meat producers.
Explaining arc-net's product, Mr Kelly said: "Our solution gives companies and brand owners the ability to have independent validation of their food quality.
"It also increases the information flow across the entire supply chain, which helps ensure authenticity, quality, traceability and compliance, based on Blockchain technology.
"Our consumer-first approach ensures they get much greater insight into the product they are buying in terms of its origins and its journey to the shop they are buying it in."
Entrepreneurial Spark is a business accelerator and growth hub for entrepreneurs.
It is part of a major international movement to encourage and support start-up and scale-up businesses.
Powered by Ulster Bank, the Entrepreneurial Spark Hatchery in Belfast provides free space for up to 80 entrepreneurs, with hands-on mentoring, a boot camp for business planning, and a free programme of up to 18 months of advice, support and expert workshops.