The third edition of the Agri-Food Innovation Days (AFID) 2022, was successfully organized by Berytech, in partnership with QOOT Cluster, funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Lebanon, with the support of the Italian Trade Agency (ITA) and ENI CBC MED, and co-hosted with HORECA Connects. The event took place over three days on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, March 22, 23, & 24, 2022, at the Seaside Pavilion, Beirut.
This year’s event was attended by over 5000 guests including entrepreneurs, buyers, investors, researchers, students, academics engineers, innovators, investors, farmers, and agri-food producers.
With a condensed schedule of more than 80 speakers across more than 25 organized activities including panel discussions, demo sessions, keynote speakers, B2B matchmaking sessions, and workshops, AFID2022 allowed its guests to dive into the agri-food sector, to identify opportunities for trade, investment, and collaboration, to explore untapped potential and innovative solutions.
The Real Face of Lebanon
Launching the event was Maroun Chammas, Chairman, and CEO of Berytech, who maintained that AFID shows the real face of Lebanon: talent, innovation, and opportunities. In his welcome note, Chammas addressed food security in Lebanon and the region stating that it “requires vision and governance mechanisms that enhance the agility, robustness, and functioning of food systems for all. The region will need to act on key issues, and these actions are going beyond governments to include measures that are taken by YOU, the stakeholders of the agri-food sector: businesses, organizations, entrepreneurs, academics, farmers, researchers, and activists. You are being pushed to be more flexible and agile in your responses, and you are assuming further social and environmental responsibilities. This is why we decided to organize AFID this year because we know that having you all under one roof together will catalyze the cooperation and collaboration in pushing innovation and action to new levels. “
In his turn, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Lebanon, H.E. Hans Peter Van Woude pointed out that “the Agri-Food Innovation Days offers the right environment for entrepreneurs for the creation and development of startups and SMEs. Innovation is key. I’m convinced that the Lebanese agri-food sector will never compete on quantity, but on quality. In innovation, quality and added value make the competitive advantage of the Lebanese future in agri-food.
H.E. Nicoletta Bombardiere, Ambassador of Italy to Lebanon said that “the crisis of the financial and banking sector which so far represented the backbone of the Lebanese economy highlighted the needs for are increased attention for the development of the productive sectors beginning with those where Lebanon has a comparative advantage and to this regard, we believe that the most significant potential for development undoubtedly lies in the agro-industrial sector. Yet the agricultural sector contributes to merely 5% of GDP in Lebanon while only 25% of its enterprises produce for commercial purposes, export into foreign markets, and are integrated into food processing production chains. Therefore, the sector can benefit a lot from crucial improvements in the commercialization of products, export-oriented strategies, and technological innovation.
Innovation & Quality Are Key
To multiply AFID’s networking impact, Berytech organized a trade mission to Lebanon including more than 25 international buyers and distributors from 5 different countries mainly the USA, Brussels, Gulf, France, and the Ivory Coast, led by Lebanon’s economic attachés, Chadi Boudaher, Abdallah Nasseredine, Rachelle Alamedine, Saadallah Zaaiter, and Rana Rizk.
Throughout AFID, one-on-one meetings were organized with more than 100 Lebanese companies to discuss collaboration, export potential, and trade agreements.
Rana Rizk, Economic Attaché to the Lebanese Embassy in Ivory Coast, pointed out “we are here with a delegation of 5 investors from Ivory Coast and Ghana to allow them to discover Lebanese products that they can import back to West African countries. Their interest lies in authentic products and high-quality organic products, trends that are relatively new to West African countries. They were impressed by the offering and surprised by the variety of agro-food items being produced that they were not aware of. Deals have already been made to test some products in the African markets that could lead to export deals eventually.”
Abdallah Nasseredine, Economic Attaché to the Lebanese Embassy in the US confirmed that “the US market for Lebanese companies is very promising. Lebanese products could go 2 different ways. The first is the foodservice industry, and the second, based on the quality and small-scale production that we have could go more into specialty food, in other words, gourmet products. We are trying to focus on these two markets and trying to guide Lebanese SMEs and the new innovations to go into the specialty foods section for the US.
80+ Speakers, 25+ Activities, 20+ Startups
In addition to the exhibition space hosting more than 12 programs and more than 20 agri-food startups, guests are invited to join the conversation on the sector’s most urgent topics on the evolution, strengths, and export potential of the Lebanese agri-food sector with more than 25 panels, keynote speakers, workshops, talks, round tables, and exclusive announcements.
30+ renowned agri-food companies with products and services across the entire value chain, and 20+ fresh startups from the Agrytech, PHEMAC, Transdairy, and Best Med Grape programs, showcased their innovative solutions driven by technology and science, from high-quality consumer products that offer import alternatives as well as new usage to traditional or wasted raw materials, to solutions that reduce cost and improve efficiency in agriculture and food production.
Demonstration sessions were organized to allow startups in the AGrytech Accelerator program and researchers innovating in the Dairy Value Chain to pitch their solutions and research findings for the first time to the public.
The Berytech Fab Lab also presented a significant showpiece, inspired by the waves of the Mediterranean, called the “Mauj”, designed by Wael Khalil and produced entirely in the Berytech Fab Lab. Mauj attracted visitors and inspired the ever-growing makers’ community in Lebanon.
AFID Redefining The Sector
“What Berytech has done with AFID this year is unprecedented in terms of congregating national and international bodies and organizations who are actively working in sustaining, strengthening, and advancing the agri-food sector in Lebanon. We have proven that we can lift the sector and the country to higher grounds,” concludes Ramy Boujawdeh, COO of Berytech.
The Agri-Food Innovation Days 2022 event was organized in partnership with QOOT Cluster, funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Lebanon, with the support of the Italian Trade Agency (ITA) and ENI CBC MED, with the great collaboration of HORECA Connects, in partnership with the Government of Canada, PSDP, UNDP, UNIDO, UNICEF, Care Lebanon, Robinson Agri, CEVA Logistics, Adcreators, REACH, PFC, Roots, Agridev, Plastc Lab, UNIPAK, Roof 11, and Pechmark.
As the event wraps up, learnings from AFID2022 will be released on Berytech’s website and social channels. Click here to stay connected.
Berytech is an ecosystem for entrepreneurs, providing a dynamic environment for the creation and development of startups and SMEs, fostering innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship in Lebanon. Since 2002, Berytech has assisted more than 4,200 entrepreneurs and helped create more than 3,400 job opportunities in Lebanon.
Berytech’s support falls under capacity building/networking, policy reform, startup and SME development, startup, and SME incubation, startup acceleration and incubation, student entrepreneurship development, technology transfer support, and women empowerment.
Berytech manages over 30 programs in agriculture and food, water, energy and food, clean technology, green entrepreneurship and circular economy, and social entrepreneurship, all involving ICT and innovation.