Berytech and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands celebrate achievements including the creation of 77 jobs by the 16 graduating startups and the establishment of the QOOT Cluster.
Berytech has reported on the achievements of its two-year agri-food innovation program Agrytech during a celebration evening hosted on Wednesday August 28 with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands amidst partners, community members as well as startups and graduates of the program and members of the QOOT Cluster. The celebration was hosted at the Sursock museum in Beirut.
“Agriculture is a national matter, and Lebanon can play a role in the food security of the region, given the microclimates it has, as well as its human capital and entrepreneurship mindset,” commented Maroun N. Chammas, Berytech’s Chairman and CEO in his opening remarks. “At Berytech, we want to put Lebanon on the world agri-food innovation map to attract international investors and experts to work with Lebanese innovators in this sector; so we are very proud to report the success of the Agrytech Program and celebrate this achievement with our donors and partners from the Kingdom of the Netherlands.”
Indeed, for the past two years, Berytech, with the support and funding from the Kingdom of the Netherlands, developed an Accelerator program to advance agri-food innovative ideas into successful businesses, helped setup the first Lebanese cluster to empower the smart Agri-Food community, shared business and industry knowledge through an open-source resources platform, and finally setup a digital fabrication lab to bring together makers and innovators in their passion for prototyping.
“Berytech has close to two decades of experience and has shown its credibility in providing support to startups and innovation,” comments H.E. Jan Waltmans, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Lebanon. “For that reason, we supported their Agrytech program which is also very much in line with the vast knowledge the Netherlands offers in the agricultural and food sector. We are also very happy to continue the cooperation with Berytech in the agritech sector and to even extend it to cleantech.”
Agrytech Accelerator Program
The Agrytech accelerator was developed as a yearly program which included a validation phase, an acceleration phase – where the startups worked for 4 months on building their minimum viable product (MVP) in order to get traction, and finally, a 6-month incubation and growth phase, from which they graduated investment-ready, and with matching capital.
All in all, the accelerator graduated 16 startups, 28% of them co-founded by women. More than 50 trainers and 10 international experts contributed to more than 905 hours of training for the startups. As for the grants, more than $724,000 in funding was provided to the startups, with an additional $328,000 received through local and international competitions. It is noteworthy that 77 jobs were created by the startups.
“We want to make sure Lebanon has the most competitive companies that are sourcing, solving, growing food, transforming food and feeding the world from Lebanon,” comments Ramy Boujawdeh – Berytech Deputy General Manager and Agrytech Program Director. “That’s why the program was designed and created to support this kind of initiatives by ensuring that we have an accelerator that supports people with ideas and make them work on these ideas, develop a business and grow their business from Lebanon to the world.”
The graduates of the Agrytech Accelerator Program include the following startups, 209 Lebanese Wine, Easy Ready, Makanat, AkelTech (originally Mekaprep), Mother’s Cooking, Smart Gourmet, and Starchy from the first batch; and Agrieats (Atayeb Al Jabal), Cubex, Digimart, Foodcheck, IoTree, Mushtic, Quadra, Rigino and Turista Kit from the second batch.
All the startups – from a wide range of fields from farm to fork including biology, wineries, food production, cooking, waste treatment, agriculture, and vending machines, were sourced from ideathons, roadshows, universities, hackathons, and strategic partnerships.
Boujawdeh explains, “Through the accelerator we helped people with ideas convert them into a scalable and international business.”
The entrepreneurs enrolled in the program were able to access a large number of support activities, from mentoring to coaching to a network of experts to the digital fabrication lab, and were able to go to the Netherlands on missions with our partners and were able to go to international fairs and exhibitions to showcase their products and services. “This provided them with an extensive support network to be able to fundraise, to source the materials and the solutions, and to be able to really promote their solutions to investors, to buyers and other integrators of solutions,” added Boujawdeh.
QOOT Agri-Food Innovation Cluster
Launched in February 2019, QOOT is the first Lebanese agri-food consortium that brings together Lebanese enterprises, rising SMEs, multinational companies, knowledge providers, support institutions, and investment entities.
The aim of the cluster, which today includes close to 40 members, is to create a platform where both startups and existing companies in the Lebanese agri-food sector can come together and work on increasing the competitiveness of the sector and placing Lebanon back on the innovation map.
Nadine Khoury – President of the QOOT Cluster explains, “It took us around two years of hard efforts and preparation in order to accomplish what we wanted, and QOOT was finally and officially launched at the beginning of 2019. In a very short period of time, we were able to enroll members, to sign agreements with universities, and conduct many workshops on business innovation, digital thinking and customer trends. We are also very proud to now be members of the European Cluster Collaboration Platform and to receive the European Label Cluster in Bronze.”
A Maker’s Community Through The Fabrication Lab
The Berytech Fab Lab opened in October 2017 under the Agrytech program and was co-funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Berytech. It is the sole organization in Lebanon that is a member of the Fab Foundation, the main international authority certifying Fab Labs around the world in over 78 countries, offering a technical prototyping platform for innovation and invention, aiming at turning ideas into prototypes.
The Berytech Fab Lab has so far delivered over 35 workshops to more than 300 attendees with an audience of 40% women. It has graduated six students from the Fab Academy.
Future Agro Challenge
Berytech is a partner of the Future Agro Challenge, with the aim to catalyze innovation in the agri-food industry and bring the competition to Lebanon. Starchy, a startup that manufactures bio-coating for fruits and vegetables, and an Agrytech Accelerator program graduate, won the 2017-2018 challenge and was named Lebanon Agripreneur of the year. The following year Compost Baladi won the title for 2018-2019 and is now headed to the international finals to represent Lebanon at the Global Agripreneurs Summit this September in Greece, to compete with the most promising agri-food startups for the title of “Agripreneur of the Year”.
Through the resource platform, Berytech put together all the content information that startups can have access to once they register on the site. This includes trends and innovations in the global agriculture and food industries, valuable business tools to help startups start, manage and grow their businesses, local and regional real-life challenges, and answers from Berytech’s network of experts to any of their questions.