Lebanon’s Agri-Food Innovation Day 2019
Under the patronage of the President of Council of Ministers H.E. Mr. Saad Hariri and with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Lebanon, Berytech successfully organized Lebanon’s first agri-food innovation conference and exhibition attended by over 1200 students, academics and researchers, engineers, innovators, investors, agri-food sector players, government officials, the media and ecosystem partners.
“Agriculture in Lebanon needs a revolution, and we should all be part of it,” commented Maroun N. Chammas, Berytech’s Chairman and CEO in his opening remarks. “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. 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.”
Berytech, with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Lebanon, has been leading on sourcing agri-food innovations from Lebanon for the past two years. “We organized this first conference and exhibition to showcase these innovations and create a networking environment for the startups, the SMEs and the larger companies, as well as our entrepreneurs, academia and public institutions,” continued Chammas.
Officially representing H.E. Saad Hariri, newly appointed Minister of State for Information Technology H.E. Adel Afiouni expressed his pleasure at having AFID as his first outing in an official capacity. He asserted that “the knowledge economy is at the heart of our strategic vision. One of my key objectives in the newly formed ministry will be to come up with a national digitalization strategy to boost productivity and efficiency across all sectors. Agriculture is another strategic sector at the heart of our economic vision. Our aspiration is to create a high-value, high-quality sector which generates sustainable wealth for farmers and rural communities, and which also provides food security for Lebanon and for the region.”
In his part, H.E. Jan Waltmans, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Lebanon confirmed that “The Agrytech program, funded by our government, has been considered to be one of the most successful programs we have supported in Lebanon. Many of the youth I talk to all over Lebanon ask me firstly: How can I get to the Netherlands? But the youth who are involved in Agrytech never ask me that question. They have such an energy to promote innovative solutions in their own country and that give us a lot of energy as well.”
Conference and Exhibition
AFID was set at the Beirut International Exhibition & Leisure Center (BIEL) on a 1500 m2 area with two main focuses: the exhibition space and several on-going activities. 25 renowned agri-food companies with products and services across the entire value-chain, and 13 fresh startups of the Agrytech Accelerator showcased their innovations in agri-food technology. The Berytech Fab Lab space also allowed a first-hand experience with its machines and makers showcasing the different hardware prototyping opportunities for startups.
The highlight of the conference was the official launching of QOOT, the first Agri-food innovation cluster in Lebanon working on increasing the competitiveness of the agri-food sector and placing Lebanon back on the international innovation map. The cluster currently gathers 26 innovative companies and startups with the goal of strengthening the position of the Lebanese Agri-Food sector, attracting talents, developing new products and services and promoting the Lebanese cuisine and agro products among the most innovative, healthy in the world, while also attracting foreign investments.
On stage, 9 startups from the Agrytech Accelerator demonstrated months of work in developing their business, all incorporating innovation as a main factor in addressing the challenges of the agri-food sector locally and globally.
Panel Discussion & Keynote
A panel discussion moderated by Berytech’s Project Director Krystel Khalil, hosted Gustavo Perez – Program Manager of 5toi Project, Yasmina Raphael – Head of Business Environment and Innovation at Lebanon’s Prime Minister’s Office, Evert Jaap – Managing Director at YES!Delft Netherlands, and Rani Azzi – Vineyard Manager and Assistant Technical Director at Chateau Kefraya. The panelists discussed policies focused on food security and sustainable development, and innovating following a nexus approach to energy, water, and food.
Guest speaker Carla Tanas, founder of the of the Future Agro Challenge discussed the challenges facing the agri-food sector and the potential of discovering solutions through the innovative powers of entrepreneurs who are able to revolutionize the industry: “Ironically, farmers’ instinctual knowledge is a factor that can drive the knowledge economy extinct if it is not passed on. This is why we need to create income for farmers by creating new opportunities using technology.” Her talk was followed by the announcement of the two Lebanese winners of this year’s local Future Agro Challenge: Compost Baladi and Clean2O, with the first representing Lebanon at the Global Agripreneurs Summit in Greece in June 2019.
BLC Bank animated a workshop that introduced the different possibilities of financing to the attendees while its GM and CEO Bassam Hassan took the stage to emphasize the importance of fostering innovation in agri-food: “If we intend to compete with neighboring countries with quantity, it is a losing battle. The agriculture sector needs to compete based on quality – this is where innovation is key.”
Nadi Khater, CCO of Touch, announced a collaboration with an Agrytech startup currently in the Accelerator: “The main reason for our presence here today is to announce our collaboration with IoTree. We will use a new technology to give them low latency and low power to use sensors in their solution targeting local farmers. We will also give them a direct access to TIP our accelerator program dedicated to support innovation.”
Berytech was proud to organize this event with the support of its partners, BLC Bank, Touch, BEL Group, Biel, Sanad Entrepreneurship Academy, Careem, Chateau Kefraya, Colonel Beer, Commercial Insurance, Kassatly Chtaura, Lebanese Dutch Business Association, Al Rifai, Robinson Agri, Roof 11, Roots, Unipak and of course the ongoing partnership with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.