Over three consecutive days, 29 teams competed in the first edition of the REAF Ideathon 2022, an exciting opportunity for entrepreneurs to solve real challenges in agrifood, eco-tourism, sustainable agriculture, and circular economy in local rural communities. Startups had the opportunity to enhance their knowledge, receive support from experts and pitch their proposed solutions to a panel of judges to get the chance to be selected among the 15 teams to join the first phase of the REAF incubation program.
The REAF Ideathon was organized by Berytech under the Rural Entrepreneurs in Agri-Food program (REAF) funded by The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by Berytech in partnership with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), within the framework of the project Strengthening Agriculture, Local Communities and Small and Medium Enterprises (ACE).
The REAF Ideathon
From over 150 applications, 29 teams were selected to join the three-day event and turn their ideas into viable businesses. The jury, composed of Anna Garber, Advisor – GIZ; Imad Hamze, Deputy program director at GIZ; Lara El Khoury, Deputy Program Director at Berytech; Maha Zouwayhed, Associate Director at Talal and Madiha Zein AUB Innovation Park (Zein AUB iPark); Rodolphe Gabriel, International Development and Solidarity jobs expert; and Wadih Kaissar, BASATINE Program Manager at Berytech, had to evaluate the teams based on different criteria to select 15 winners to join the REAF incubation program.
During the event, the participants had also the opportunity to learn about best practices from Cezar Mahmoud, Founder of Cezar’s Projects in his recent experience in the local market on rural development.
In addition, REAF’s community partners, Michel Daher Foundation and Rural Entrepreneurs organized each an innovation weekend for over 35 teams at their respective hubs, onboarding and initiating the startups to entrepreneurship as well as selecting four winners to join Berytech’s Ideathon.
Meet The Winners
Each of the 15 winning startups will enter a three-month pre-incubation program at Berytech, during which they will receive a grant of up to $2,000 and technical and business support to validate their product and their business model. At the end of this phase, a jury will select eight startups to move to the second phase of the REAF program. The selected teams are:
3a Droub Zahle: Revitalizing underutilized areas in the city of Zahle through guided tours.
5 days on the saddle: Providing an exceptional experience for visitors interested in the environment and touring around Lebanon. Wael Hammad, Co-Founder of 5 days on saddle, stated “The REAF Ideathon broadened my understanding of business fundamentals, introduced me to like-minded individuals, boosted my entrepreneurial abilities, strengthened my resilience, and pushed me to focus more on my business and believe in its success.”
Azolla: working on Azolla-sourced floating fern to utilize as bio-fertilizer for wetland paddy.
Agroventure: an agricultural shop that provides farmers with advice on how to implement sustainable agricultural practices.
Crispy Fried Onions: uses extra onion crops in Lebanon to produce dry or fried onions. Christiane Tamer, Co-Founder of Crispy fried onions, stated “We received professional training from experienced and professional coaches. Our startup concepts were developed and refined to make them more executable. Significant progress had been made by the end of the weekend.”
Farming-Bee: Setting up an artificial bee insemination lab to provide beekeepers with guaranteed and affordable pure bee species. Wissam Bou Hamdan, Co-Founder of Farming-Bee, stated “It was a well-organized Ideathon, grateful to have participated in such a joyful and pleasant event. The team members were very helpful emanating great vibes. The bootcamps helped us improve our skills and business plan, and we want to continue improving until we achieve our goals.”
Green TaQa: a decentralized anaerobic digester, that uses agricultural waste and Azolla as feedstock to produce methane gas as a biofuel and fermented manure.
HommosHummus: developing a healthy, environmentally responsible, and long-lasting hummus. Nizar Sarrieddine, Co-Founder of HommosHummus, stated “The REAF program is an excellent resource for rural entrepreneurs. The Ideathon prompted us to delve deeply into our efforts and uncover their potential. The support offered by the REAF program has a tremendous impact on our personal and business success, which will ripple into the surrounding community.”
Jamra Plus: providing clean and sustainable energy from reused material to provide heat for food preparation and heating water. Safa Ayoub, Co-Founder of Jamra Plus, stated “Participating in the REAF Ideation was the starting point for properly developing our idea. Our innovation evolved in three days, giving us confidence that we can change rural communities for the better.”
Lebotanica: offering exceptional quality, organic plant-based skincare products from the permaculture-designed garden.
Mama’s Bakes: making healthy tasty snacks and working on increasing awareness about the importance of consuming healthy snacks, especially for kids. Christina Al Banna, Co-Founder of Mama’s Bakes, stated “We are proud to have been a part of such an amazing Ideathon. The REAF Ideathon was an incredible experience that changed our perspective and way of thinking by allowing us to share and network with people from various backgrounds.”
Mounit Em Dib: linking contributors from “farm to fork” by adopting an agri-food system of sustainable production through supplying healthy products to the Lebanese market.
Ramy’s Ecological Farm: implementing ecological farming practices including organic farming that regenerates ecosystem services and preserves biodiversity.
Saj Rima: producing a frozen saj manoushe , rich in proteins and carbohydrates.
VetGo: working on improving artificial insemination in cattle.
Supporting Innovative solutions
The first edition of the REAF Ideathon provided an exciting opportunity for startups operating in South Mount Lebanon, Central, and West Bekaa to present their innovative solutions in the sectors of agrifood, eco-tourism, and circular economy solving real problems/challenges in rural communities.
Malek Ghanem, Business Development Specialist at Berytech, stated “The three days have been amazing for both the Berytech team and the startups, it has been a very unique experience working with startups from West and Central Bekaa and South Mount Lebanon. These startups are working on ideas towards sustainable rural development. They received different workshops and 1-on-1 sessions with experts. The startups were able to pivot their plans and projects and introduce an innovative mindset towards their solutions.”
Rewa Mahmoud, founder of 1977, stated: “I have received the best-detailed mentorship and I was able to further define my problem thus clarifying my solution to a greater extent.”
Ali Saraeb, founder of VetGo, stated “During the weekend at Berytech we learned how to generate profit from our startup and improve our pitching skills.”
Rami Abou Trad, founder of Plantberry, stated “During the REAF Ideathon, I was able to change the problem I am addressing and enhance my target audience to focus on individuals that have sink allergies.”
Laetitia Malkoun, founder of Zweytini Ecovillage, stated “The training sessions were able to change my mind set to take into consideration factors that I had not previously thought of in my business solution and pivot accordingly.”
Emma Chacar, pitching trainer, stated “The journey during the REAF Ideathon was amazing, very innovative, fun, and stressful for everyone but the success at the end and the teams are amazing with great results. I would leave the teams with one piece of advice to keep the passion.”
Rural Entrepreneurs in Agri-Food (REAF) program that aims at strengthening the socio-economic resilience of individuals in South of Mount-Lebanon, Central and West Bekaa through supporting the business model viability of startups in the agri-food, eco-tourism, sustainable agriculture, and circular economy sectors.
The program is funded by The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in partnership with Berytech, within the framework of the project Strengthening Agriculture, Local Communities, and Small and Medium Enterprises (ACE).