Innovating, Hacking and Winning
On June 8, 2021 took place the final selection of the DigitalAg4her Hackathon. The competition aimed at crowdsource and support innovative ICT-based solutions through women-led initiatives tailored to enhance the efficiency, equity and environmental sustainability of the agri-food sector in Lebanon, focusing particularly on women working in agriculture.
The jury members including Constantin Salameh, Investment Expert, Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani, President & Founder of the Arab International Women’s Forum, Maurice Saade, FAO representative, Reem Nejdawi, Chief Food and Environment Policies Section at UNESCWA and Wafaa El Dikah Hamzé, Senior Advisor at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Out of the 288 overall applicants, nine teams had reached the final selection stage:
- Pure Farms team proposed a new mixed vertical farming system for producing high-quality microgreens.
- KawaFungo startup aims at reusing the used coffee grounds to grow mushrooms.
- RIVALAND proposed a sustainable and low-cost nature-based solution for the on-site treatment of water through a hybrid composition of water purifying plants and effective microorganisms.
- TechFertilizers/Agricoders team is working to enhance strategies for crop and soil productivity.
- Orgaculture team proposed an e-commerce application for fresh organic products connecting farmers and consumers.
- HTSM (Healthy Trading System Market) team aims to provide a higher income to the farmer and a lower cost for the customer using an online market platform for fruits and vegetables.
- AGRO – Diffused Fields startup aims to create a digital platform to facilitate the interactions between landowners and workers.
- Tehweeji – From the heart of Lebanon team aims to launch a web based online platform to market cooperative products.
- Boostoculture/Farmers of Beyond team proposed developing an app to reduce drastic damages on apple cultures caused by the Apple Scab.
Three women-led teams won the DigitalAg4Her Hackathon. The winning teams, Pure Farms, Kawafungo and Rivaland will receive further technical assistance in developing a Minimum Viable Product and a two-month incubation support from Berytech.
During the event, Mouna Couzi, Country Operations Officer at the World Bank underlined that she is very impressed to learn that the hackathon attracted as much as 288 applicants, out of which 53 were shortlisted to form 21 women-led teams that participated in a series of technical workshops to further develop their ideas. The high interest from applicants showcases that digital technologies can revitalize the agri-food sector and make it attractive for youth, both men and women.
Ramy Boujawdeh, Deputy General Manager of Berytech indicated that even though a lot of women applied to the Hackathon there was a discrepancy between rural and urban teams as those from rural communities did not have the digital component in their solution because of their lack of exposure to it. Therefore, it is important to increase digital literacy in rural areas so the rural communities would not only absorb digital content but to also develop it.
The jury members and organizers thanked the young participants for their efforts and commitment to find smart and innovative ideas to support women in the agri-food sector. It was highlighted that women leaders and youth will help shape a brighter future for Lebanon, and together we can make sure that agriculture is green, resilient and inclusive for generations to come.
The Hackathon Agenda and Activities
The first three days of the hackathon were dedicated to understanding the real challenges facing the agri-food sector. Participants received guidance on how to identify the main problem and sketch different solutions to validate their assumptions in order to better understand their target beneficiaries. Participants were then encouraged to interview stakeholders and validate their ideas.
Scheduled sessions provided the teams with the information needed to turn their idea into a valid business solution and build their prototype. Workshops were conducted by the Berytech team as well as by Nadine Asmar, Andre Abi Awad, Zahi Hilal, and Tarek El Khatib. Participants also received the opportunity to attend one-on-one clinics with field experts, technical experts, and business experts from IM Capital and Berytech team as well as: Mustafa Ammouri, Palig Garboishian, Farah Hariri, Tatiana Awwad, Fidele El Achkar, Tamara Gebara, Yara Ibrahim, and Joelle Hajjar.
Finally, the semifinalist participants were able to pitch their solutions and present the demo to the jury to get the chance to be selected among the finalists. The pre-selection jury members included members from the World Bank Group and Berytech as well as Abbas Sidaoui- CTO at Revotonix, Fidele El Achkar- Founder of Foodsight and Marie-Louise Hayek- FAO specialist, allowing nine teams to pitch their solution during the finals.
The DigitalAg4Her hackathon is implemented by Berytech in collaboration with the World Bank Group’s Mashreq Gender Facility and Agriculture and Food Global practice, in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture in Lebanon and with the technical support of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).