Agrytech: Lebanon’s Agri-Food Innovation Hub.
The agricultural sector in Lebanon faces a handful of challenges from the high cost of production to the monopoly of traders. The biggest challenge to both agriculture and food security results from the fact that out of 1.1 million hectares of exploitable land in Lebanon, only 360,000 hectares are prone to easy planting. Out of these, only 280,000 hectares have been used and only the 32% of the land is irrigated.
To solve these challenges, Agrytech, Lebanon’s Agri-Food Innovation Hub, has been funded and launched on January 19, 2017 by the Embassy of Kingdom of Netherlands and Berytech. The program aims to source the top startups with disruptive innovations in the Agri-Food sector and provide them with the adequate technical and business resources as well as community support.
The program consists of an Accelerator, a Cluster and a Resources platform.
The Accelerator aims to advance innovative ideas in the Agri-Food sector into successful businesses with a global impact. It welcomes startups and SMEs at early stage with engineering and tech solution including: robotics, remote sensing, automation, e-commerce, traceability, Big Data, AI, IOT, drones. The Cluster is a catalyst promoting a smart Agri-food innovation hub. The resources platform raise awareness on the importance of integrating innovation in the Agri-Food sector, and disseminating information on various topics and themes of relevance to the sector.
The program aims to empower 30 startups yearly and assist them in building a minimum viable product over a period of 8 weeks. Of these 30 startups, 15 are selected to pursue a four months acceleration program to validate their concept. Eight finalists are selected from phase 2 and join a six months incubation program and benefit from investment. The program provides up to $40K in grants and up to one year of support for each startup.
The scope of solutions as transcending the national remit to extend to the regional and global spheres as well.
Batch I of the Agrytech Program started in April 2017, when 17 startups out of 62 applicants were given the opportunity to build a minimum viable product over the period of two months with a $3,300 validation grant. For phase 2, only 11 of these startups went into a four months acceleration program to validate concept, each receiving $16,000 as support grant.
In November, 7 finalists were selected to join the six months incubation program, to experience potential internationalization, and benefit from investment. The selected startups are:
- Smart Gourmet – a ready-to-eat food concept using the sous-vide technique to cook traditional authentic food with zero preservatives resulting in a longer shelf-life;
- MekaPrep – an innovative, electricity operated 2-meter machine that will prepare a freshly baked Manoushe with the click of a button;
- Mothers’ Cooking – an online platform that connects hungry foodies with cooking mothers allowing them to buy fresh home-cooked meals;
- 209 Lebanese Wine – an online marketplace for more than 45 Lebanese wineries that delivers internationally while providing a powerful online food-pairing engine;
- EasyReady – a hummus dispenser serving fresh hummus mixes based on natural ingredients free from any preservatives;
- Startchy – which synthesizes starch-based bio-plastic coating for fruits and vegetables offering an organic alternative to wax and vacuumed plastic to preserve and extend their shelf-life;
- Makanat – an online platform that connects food lovers, food entrepreneurs, and food businesses to short-term facility and processing line rentals.
Zeina Haroun, co-founder of Makanat, explains: “On our experience with Agrytech, I believe they played a crucial step in Makanat’s achievements so far. We’ve had this idea for a while now but the support provided by Agrytech encouraged us to move forward with it and dedicate more time and resources to develop into a business. In addition to coaching and direct funding from Agrytech, they also helped us access networking and funding opportunities in Lebanon as well as in the Netherlands.”
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