A team composed of students and graduates of three different universities in Lebanon
BOOSTani, a crowdsource funding platform for farmers won first prize of $1500 at the Startup Weekend Bekaa, which took place in the École supérieure d’ingénieurs d’agronomie méditerranéenne (ESIAM) campus of the Saint Joseph University (USJ) on Dec 8, 9 and 10, 2017.
The team was composed of Ahmad Hasan (Beirut Arab University graduate), Michel Metri (LAU Graduate), Danielle Monsef, and Rima Hijazi (current students at USJ-ESIAM).
The weekend was dedicated to solving challenges in the agriculture, food and water sectors. Over 40 passionate and enthusiastic participants from diverse backgrounds including engineering, agriculture, marketing, business, design, and technology, signed up for the challenge forming teams around exciting startup ideas.
The nine teams
The nine teams, who worked through the weekend, pitched their ideas to the jury on Sunday. The second prize of $1000 went to E-Hesba, an application for retailers to order fruits and vegetables from wholesalers and farmers and the 3rd prize of $500 went to AGRIroots, an application for customers to track the source of their produce.
On top of the cash prizes, winning teams will receive incubation and business support from Berytech and support to prepare them to participate in the Agrytech Accelerator funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Lebanon and Berytech.
The remaining pitched ideas included:
- Plant protection system – a solution that uses sensors to detect temperature changes triggering land irrigation
- Garden Revolution – an aquaponics agriculture solution for households (honorable mention)
- Seedata – an agriculture data hub using a central platform that connects data about seeds from providers, farmers, and producers
- Biraa Bil Ziraa – an information channel about agriculture
- Duonysos – an IoT sensor enabled device that analyses weather conditions improving vine growth and quality
- Cubex – a multi output organic waste solution for those ready to take action
Keynote speaker Michel Daher, Founder and Chairman of Daher Capital, cited the need for innovative thinking in the food and agriculture sectors in Lebanon particularly in processing. “Lebanese farmers and producers lack the information required to understand the needs of potential export markets in terms of access, consumption behavior and supply gaps,” Daher pointed out in his talk. “It is encouraging to see innovative ideas get developed during events such as the Startup Weekend Bekaa.”
The Startup Weekend Activities
The weekend started with an overview by facilitator Layal Jebran, Techstars Community Leader in Lebanon. Jihad Daher, owner of Gout Blanc talked about his entrepreneurial journey and the challenges he faces in the ag-food sector. Dr. Maya Kharrat, Director of ESIAM, welcomed the participants while Dr. Fadi Karam, international consultant in agriculture water management, introduced the many challenges that the country faces in water management and food production. Teams were formed in opening night after individual ideas were pitched to the 40+ participants and the startup marathon started.
For the next two days, the teams worked to turn their ideas into business models with the help of the 30+ mentors who made themselves available to answer questions and help the teams tackle the different challenges of their business model. Workshops including design thinking and business model canvas helped the teams channel and organize their ideas to turn them into attractive pitches.
The Closing Ceremony
The closing event on Sunday night also hosted Dr. Hady Khalaf, Digital Transformation Director of Groupe Bel Middle East and Africa who pointed out at the group’s effort to support growing entrepreneurial endeavors. Pierre Njeim, Specialty Fertilizers Line Manager of Unifert and Kim Issa, External Relations Manager of Arc en Ciel, reinforced the notion that agriculture companies need not look outside Lebanon for innovation but look forward to finding them in rising startups. All speakers in addition to Mr. Daher were part of the jury.
Startup weekend was organized with the support of Berytech, Agrytech Program, and CEWAS Middle East and sponsored generously by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Lebanon, Unifert and Groupe Bel and hosted and supported by the Saint Joseph University.