Hackathon 2018 Challenges

The Agrytech Hackathon is aiming to solve different environmental, economic, business, and marketing challenges in the agro-food industry. The challenges encompass different subsectors of the agriculture and food industry that include: forestry, farming, crop production, livestock, poultry, fisheries, and food production.

Below you will find a short first description of the different tracks that we offer during the Hackathon. These tracks will help you and your team work on interesting challenges. We will support you with data, domain knowledge and relevant references to other types of solutions that made it to the market.

This information is work in process, so keep tuned for more information!

Deadline April 12th, 2018

Challengers

Track 1: Farm

The most critical innovation in agriculture relates to farm management. Currently, farmers are lacking good crop guidance tools. For instance, many agricultural activities (e.g. sowing, harvesting, and fertilizer application) are dependent on weather conditions for planning and effectiveness.

A big challenge is how to make meteorological data available to farmers. Another challenge is the absence of record-keeping in farming which makes it hard to any relevant analysis to look for opportunities to improve farm results, for instance in the area of minimizing harvest losses. So how can we support farmers with easy to use and affordable services and applications?

For example, estimating the cost of fertilizer, pesticides, irrigation, water, workforce as well as items that are not quoted in the farming expenses, will allow grower and farmers to know the production cost and determine how well the farm business is doing: It allows as well to evaluate how efficiently resources are being used during the farm operations, to predict how to make other useful decisions for improving his business.

Challenge
To create a simple cost-friendly analysis production tool. This will help smallholders to evaluate and decide on the use of their different items inputs and outputs.

Challengers
Agricultural Practitioner

Available Data
Cost of production for main crops in Lebanon (avocado, cherries and table grapes)

Track 2: Environment

Bees’ disappearance as a result of the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is threatening honey-making and bee-keeping businesses: the latter is a cash-generating business that is widely invested in by the Lebanese. The increasing interest in natural ingredients and the growing understanding of the medicinal values and use of bee products are increasing their demand in the Lebanese market. These products are honey, pollen, royal jelly, wax, propolis, venom.

However, bees are currently disappearing and not coming back to their colonies as a result of CCD. This has a tremendous environmental consequence as bees are the main supporters of our food system and environment, but it also threatens the bee production industry.

This phenomenon was recently observed in many regions in Lebanon and more specifically in the South. Chemical use of pesticides and more precisely neonicotinoid cause high toxicity to bees and other beneficial insects through low-level contamination of nectar and pollen. Other causes affecting bees in the South are electromagnetic frequencies that are being pumped into the air by all military technologies and cell phone. In addition, changes in land cover/use and the reduction of forest vegetation cover is affecting the habitat of many colonies.

 

Challenge
A large number of beekeepers are not able to track their hives. Thus, they seek solutions that allow them to monitor and track their colonies.

Challenger
Jabal Aamel Beekeepers Association
Beekeeping Experts
Head of Beekeeping Unit – LARI

Available Data
Satellite data (http://www.lebanonspatial.org/ and http://www.arabspatial.org/ ), open data.

Track 3: Water

Lebanon is known for its tremendous water resources at different scales whether on surface or subsurface media. The largest portion of water in the country is allocated for the agriculture sector where about 68% of the consumed water goes to irrigation. In addition, consumption in rural areas is greater than that in the urban areas.

However, there is an unfavorable status of the water in the country. Many regions are witnessing severe water scarcity and the available water supply is not sufficient to cope with the growing demand even at the level of domestic demand. Water contamination from infiltration of pollutants is another issue threatening the quality of water resources.

Thus, and with the absence of proper management controls and the lack of consumer awareness water is becoming degraded and wasted. This is aggravated by the increase in population growth which is accompanied by a huge demand for agriculture productivity.

 

Challenge
A number of farmers waste money and resources because they irrigate more than they should. Implementing good irrigation practices not only saves costs but also improves crop quality. Farmers need to have accurate data about irrigation requirements in order to produce better and pay less. In other terms, there is an urgent need to focus on a solution that helps reducing water resources during the irrigation process.

The underlying question within the environmental track is how can we come up with solutions that balance agricultural use of the land with the environment? What smart use of data and technology can help improve agriculture’s ecological footprint?

More precisely developing a tool to be able to calculate Evapotranspiration data of each crop will help define the accurate amount of water for irrigation. Therefore, participants have to compute Evapotranspiration through remote sensing data (freely found on the net) and calibrate it through climatic data. This will be applied to the Bekaa valley.

 

Challenger
Rural Projects and Irrigation Department – Lebanese Ministry of Agriculture
Department of Irrigation & Agrometeorology – Lebanese Agriculture Research Institute (LARI)

 

Available data

  • Climatic data for the Bekaa Valley
  • Scientific articles for remote sensing application to compute evapotranspiration
  • Water Watch doc is a web address for SEBAL model to use remote sensing data for ETP (Evapotranspiration computation)
  • Agriculture data for the Bekaa Valley
Track 4: Renewable Energy

The agriculture sector is under tremendous pressure to improve sustainability and reduce its environmental impact. The sector produces a great deal of waste, which is often untreated and unused. There is significant potential for the future of Lebanese agriculture is the use of agriculture by-products and wastes for renewable energy.

 

Challenge
To work on developing economic and resource-efficient systems that can handle mixed waste from agriculture and turning this into usable energy.

Challenger
IPT Group
Agriculture Expert

Track 5: Forestry

In Lebanon we are facing deforestation issues. We are also faced with the increase of man-caused fires in Lebanon’s forests.

 

The first challenge
Bentaël Natural Reserve is one of the smallest nature reserves in Lebanon. The reserve is very well recognized for its natural, ecological and cultural values. However, the geographic location of the reserve (located on a very steep slope), the southwestern wind and the presence of main species of Quercus are making it vulnerable to fires.  Hence the reserve previously selected by the Association for Forest Development and Conservation (AFDC) as a high-risk area for forest fires. Bentaël Natural Reserve is currently trying to reduce and ultimately prevent the risk while using available data.

Challenger
Bentaël Natural Reserve (President)

Available data

 

The second challenge
Solid waste has been a prominent issue in Lebanon and the reforestation sector is currently seeking to decrease waste in its process. Currently, native tree seedlings are placed in reusable plastic pots during the process of planting forest sites having plastic waste as an unfavorable consequence of the process. In the same context the Lebanese Reforestation Initiative (LRI) is looking for a solution for the following problem.

Currently, seedlings are produced in imported containers that are reusable and not found in the local market. There is no easy and environmentally-friendly packaging system that allows nurseries to send their seedlings to the planting site without them being damaged and without sending the containers. In addition, the cost of seedling transportation doubled when seedlings are sent with their containers because of container return trips, size and shape of containers. Thus, LRI is seeking to find a solution in order to reduce the pollution to our environment from using underrated materials.

Challengers
Lebanese Reforestation Initiative (LRI)
Land and Natural Resources Program, Institute of the Environment (IoE), University of Balamand

Available data

 

The third challenge
Currently there are many scientific studies that help experts decide on species to plant and best practices. However, there is no user-friendly tool that would allow average users to take such decisions.

Such a decision-making tool should include data on soil, precipitation, site conditions (slope, aspect), site location (latitude, altitude), and site history to generate data related to species to be planted and practices to be used. LRI has done a modeling exercise producing this data through GIS. We however need a tool that is easier than GIS for the average user such as a landowner or municipality.

Challenger
Lebanese Reforestation Initiative (LRI)
Land and Natural Resources Program, Institute of the Environment (IoE), University of Balamand

Available data

  • Cost of container
  • Cost of shipping and customs
  • Percentage of breakage of containers on site
Track 6: Fisheries

Small-scale fisheries play a critical role in food security, poverty eradication, equitable development and sustainable resource utilization in Lebanon. The lack of monitoring in the fisheries sector makes it hard to find opportunities to improve production systems and the livelihood of fishermen. In addition, such systems will help save lives and guide fishing vessels by allowing a real time tracking on vessel.

Challenge
During the hackathon we want to support teams who want to work on possible solutions for the lack of data, either by making it easy and affordable to do data registration, or by finding solutions how to utilize available open data. An interesting example to inspire teams is the South African ABALOBI initiative, which is a mobile app suite and program aimed at social justice and poverty alleviation in the small-scale fisheries chain

Challenger
Directorate of Rural development – Department of fisheries and Aquaculture

Available data

Track 7: Supply Chain Management

Tracking and tracing packaged food products from the distributor’s warehouse to retail is crucial for food companies to be able to safely deliver quality to their consumers. Product traceability also gives these food suppliers the opportunity to respond faster and in real time to potential quality issues.

Food manufacturers are looking at available technologies that would allow them to trace their products from distributors warehouses and then to the groceries. The technology should also enable them to record the movement of their product in terms of location and time. It should also depict the surrounding environment and conditions in which products are stored before they reach the end consumer.

Challenge
A food company is looking for a very convenient cost-effective technology that can be integrated to the product or to various locations where the product is stored. It should also give supplier the ability to measure the movement through dashboards and analytics.

Challenger
Representative of a food company

Available Data
Supply Chain Data

Track 8: New Product - Snail Slime Extraction

Slime-based products are in demand by pharmacies and perfumeries for their magical effect, starting from anti-wrinkle face cream to children’s cough syrups and antacids.

The challenge put forward for the hackathon related to the problem that traditional techniques are time and labor consuming and resulting in an undesirable quality of extracted slime. For many snail farmers, there is an urgent need to “create” a tool that can facilitate the task and produce a quality product.

The Food Beverage National Company (FBNC) initiative addresses the issue of a lack of a specific tool for snail slime extraction. FBNC will provide the methods currently in use by Lebanese snail farmers and has therefore formulated one challenge: Method of extraction challenge.

Mucopolysaccharides are naturally present in connective tissue and are important for hydration. Happy snails produce better quality richer slime. There are two methods currently in use for snail slime extraction. The extraction can be done manually or by throwing salt or vinegar, stimulating the snail to produce slime. The first method is time and labor consuming and the second one kills snails immediately and leads to a much lower concentration of mucopolysaccharides in the slime than the snail normally produce when it feels fine.

 

Challenge
There is a lack of a user-friendly tool for snail slime extraction, especially that snail farming has become a trendy practice in Lebanon. FBNC is researching the best way to extract slime without harming the snails.

Challenger
Food Beverage National Company (FBNC)

Track 9: Traditional Lebanese products

Challenge 1: Zaatar

Zaatar (thyme), whether fresh or dried, is a common product in Mediterranean diets and is witnessing burgeoning consumer demand. As such, its cultivation presents interesting economic opportunities for farmers in many regions in Lebanon.

The important phase after the cultivation of zaatar relies on the separation of the marketable portion – mainly the leaves and flowers, after drying. The norm is to use a mechanical thresher, which is expensive for farmers and requires some improvements.

 

Challenge
Design an eco-friendly tool that is affordable for farmers to help them separate the leaves from straw.

Challenger
UNDP, as a part of the Zaatar Value Chain in Lebanon

Available data
The existing manual of the thresher machine for zaatar

 

 

Challenge 2: Freekeh

Freekeh – a crushed durum wheat at a green growth stage, is a Lebanese product and one of the world’s latest food trends. It is well known for its nutrients and health benefits.

The tradition of harvesting and roasting wheat is a common practice in the southern villages of Lebanon and ensures work opportunities for many women. An important phase during the freekeh preparation relies on sorting the freekeh to eject the stones and control the quality of the grain without manual intervention to avoid contamination.

 

Challenge
Design an optical sorting machine that can be used for freekeh as well as other types of grain such lentils.

Challenger
UNDP, under the Freekeh Value Chain in Lebanon

Track 10: Wild Card!

You can also apply with your own idea, and either work on it alone or work with a team formed during the Team Formation on Friday, April 20, 2018.

 

Background
Agriculture is the third most important sector in Lebanon after the tertiary and industrial sectors. It is a small but stable part of the Lebanese economy, despite the fact that the agriculture industry only contributes 5% of Lebanon’s GDP.

Many of Lebanon’s poorest families depend on agriculture as their primary source of income and employment. Approximately 20 to 25% of Lebanon’s active population is involved in the agriculture sector, with a large share of Syrian workers.

This sector has been facing many challenges for a while, including the increase in population growth, climate change and limited resources of land and water; in addition to the change in consumer demand, trade, research and development that are imposing strong regulations to access the international markets. All of these challenges have given a voice to the sector and highlighted the need for a skilled workforce capable of implementing these improvements and innovations to progress.

 

Agriculture Technology
Agriculture needs to set out on a path toward greater efficiency and sustainability. Data and technology will play a pivotal role in the design of future food and agricultural systems, as the price of bits is decreasing, and the price of natural resources is increasing. Technology is the new indispensable language for solving problems.

Agricultural Technology (“AgTech”) is fast becoming a new emerging economic sector, which is evolving around data, digital technologies and the practices that can be built with them. It has huge impact from farm to fork – including supply, processing, manufacturing and distribution.

AgTech is about smart sensors and drones, apps for variable rate fertility practices and yield monitors. It’s about integrated management, decision support technology, robotics, precision hardware and agricultural software. It’s about data generating devices, the internet of things and the necessary capacity to process and analyze the associated explosion of data. AgTech as such, is paving the way for giant leaps in precision agriculture by doing more with less.

AgTech brings with it real opportunities for positive disruption of an industry that is otherwise relatively traditional. But businesses everywhere are being disrupted by data and tech driven developments. A projected 70% of revenue will be realized by outsiders. These developments are also coming to Food and Agriculture.

 

Moving Forward
The AgTech ecosystem would benefit greatly from a better organized environment for innovation. People with innovative ideas need access to investors, they need employees with technical expertise and they will highly benefit from capacity building and mentorship opportunities. There is also need investments in physical and networking infrastructure, so startups, public institutions, SME and corporates, investors and incubators can collaborate.

In short: we need innovation hubs as catalysts for entrepreneurship and innovation. Berytech’s Agrytech Accelerator Program is playing this role in Lebanon and the region.

Deadline April 12th, 2018