René Mouawad Foundation (RMF) and Berytech, with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Lebanon, organized the first edition of the RMF AgriApp Hackathon on 27-31 of October 2020 focusing on digitizing the agri-food supply chain by developing a mobile application that compiles the agricultural knowledge, develops the know-how of farmers for improved productivity and enhances farmer competitiveness to reach local and international markets.
The three winners won a prize of $6,000 each to help them create their Minimum Valuable Product (MVP) and a chance to join Berytech’s Agrytech Accelerator Program:
- AgriLink: Rita Chamat, Marc Srouji, Nelly Chedrawy
- Cyberseeders: Catreen El Khouly, Hisham El Moghrabi
- Mazra’tech: Ahmad Kanj, Hadi Zaarour
Agrilink is a platform that connects farmers to exporters with a user-friendly interface, increasing the exposure of the farmers and their accessibility to standards and guidelines. Furthermore, exporters will gain access to international market needs and expand their business.
Cyberseeders developed the Agriclick platform that helps farmers get analytics concerning their crops and requests from exporters, retailers and wholesalers. The system also contains an AI-powered seed recommendation system based on farm details entered.
MazraaTech helps farmers insert the information about their crops, update the information about their soil quality, the fertilizers used, and the projected country to export to. The application will notify the farmer about any potential problems in the export based on the information entered (the additives used, etc.).
Berytech and the René Moawad Foundation worked with experts as well as the public and private sectors to identify a list of challenges in the agri-food value chain.
The main challenge was to create a phone application that is specific, accurate and user-friendly as existing applications lack these three essential conditions, especially that they target farmers that are not tech oriented. The solution in the form of the mobile application had to tackle one of the bellow challenges:
- The lack of data on needs in different countries of export quantities in addition to standards
- The lack of data on consumer preferences in each country, worldwide trends and new varieties
- Farmers and exporters do not have clear visibility on cooling units and machinery available for sharing and their cost
- The lack of farmers registers specifying practices used for each batch and scientific criteria that may give the exporter insight on their conformity
- The limitation in applying accountability in case of product nonconformity after export because of lack of traceability
- The lack of access of the farmers to standards, guidelines, and norms that help them comply with export recommendations or GGAP
- The lack of anticipation on weather impact and potential disease and pests with appropriate guidance for farmers
- The lack of guidance on the right seeds and plants for the farmers to choose for their farms.
The roundtables organized to identify these challenges included representatives from Berytech, RMF, Robinson Agri, Karma Group, University of Balamand, Ainata Cherry, Saikaly Farm, the House of Lilies, Olea, Khoury Agriculture, Farmers Valley, Lama Foods, Debbane Freres, Fairtrade Organization, Jarjoura’s avocado, Lebanese University, Choueiry Food Farm, Unifert, and Arcenciel.
Judges and Judging Criteria
During the 5 days, participants were requested to build a demo that showcases their product’s most important features, present a wireframe of the app’s prototype, and pitch for 3 minutes presenting their solution to a specific challenge in a sustainable business model.
They were evaluated based on the clarity of the value proposition, empathy of the needs of app users and understanding their pain points, the sustainability of the business model, functionality of prototype exhibits functionality, team member backgrounds.
The final three winners were selected from eight finalists. Judges included Imad Riachy – RMF representative, Abdallah Bkdash – Tech Expert, Bashar Berro – Agri and business expert, Claude Challita – Academia, and Marwan Gedeon – Tech Expert.
The Hackathon Agenda & Activities
More than 88 teams were accepted to join the RMF AgriApp Hackathon before selecting 21 teams to participate in a 5-day intensive program starting with a virtual introduction session on Tuesday October 27, to understand the process and the event. Wednesday included a virtual business workshop as well as a technical session to help shape their idea, understand the needs of their customers, develop their business model, and understand their User Experience and User Interface to help them when developing their application. On Thursday, participants attended virtual technical workshops to help them with developing their prototypes. Friday and up until Saturday, teams were given the time and support to work on their solution and develop their prototype with the final pitches delivered to the jury.
Mentors from different backgrounds supported the participants in their work. In software, Nicolas Khoury – AWS User Group Beirut Lead, Andy Abi Haidar – Freelance developer and Joe Janho – MediaMonks, in User Experience, freelance consultants Tarek El Khatib and Farah Hariri, in business, Mario Ramadan and Mohammad Fanous from the Berytech team, Patricia Kebbe – Noyau SARL and Chadi Snaifer – WIDER, in Agriculture, Soha Nasser and Jihane Chahla from the Berytech team and Mariam Beydoun – Ramboll, Sweden.
About the AgriApp Hackathon
With the AgriApp Hackathon, Berytech replicated its successful and innovative mechanism used in the Agrytech Program, which started in 2017, that sources the most disruptive ideas in the agri-food sector and provides them with the technical, business and individual growth needed to convert these ideas into sustainable and successful startups with a global impact. Berytech and RMF will support the tech startups throughout the mobile application development journey: starting with the need assessment phase to the hackathon and incubation phase, promotion, and marketing. Both partners will provide the tech startups with the resources, knowledge, support, and funding to scale the idea and grow it into an international business.