that launched on January 19, 2017. This project is funded by Berytech, a technological pole in Lebanon that provides a conducive environment for the creation and development of startups, and the Embassy of Netherlands in partnership with the Lebanese Ministry of Economy & Trade. For those who don’t know, the agri-food industry, which is the business of producing food agriculturally (as opposed to through hunting, fishing, gathering, and so on), represents 10% of global consumer spending and 40% of employment. The program offers great opportunities for startups and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) in the agri-food sector of Lebanon.
What are the Agrytech opportunities?
30 startups will be given the opportunity to build a minimum viable product over the period of two months.
15 startups will go into a 4 months acceleration program to validate concept.
8 finalists will be able to join the 6 months incubation program, potential internationalization, and benefit from the investment.
The program will invest $40K in grants for each startup by providing technical and business resources as well as community support.
For starters, such a program is bound to create several job opportunities for graduates and professionals related to the fields of engineering, agriculture, food technology, technology, and business. Lebanese startups and local SMEs will have the chance to become more competitive within the MENA region, and possibly increase export from within this region that could lead to the creation of a bridge with the European market.
What key challenges could such a program face?
Since we are no experts in the field of agriculture and food, we asked someone more qualified to share his opinion on the matter. Tannous Iskandar, currently in his 4
year studying agricultural engineering, gave us a quick look at the Lebanese agricultural market. According to Iskandar, most losses come from the post-harvest period due to inefficient conservation of the harvested food. One of the causes of such an issue would be our infamous power outage, making it difficult to keep fruits and vegetables refrigerated. Another big issue is land: Lebanon is tiny. It does not have much space to harbor farms, making the price of agricultural land expensive. Iskandar revealed that to rent a hectare (10,000 m2) of land for a year, the price range is $1500 to $2000 whereas in Ukraine, for example, it’s only $40 to $60! How does that affect our agricultural practices? Simply put, the less land we have the less our ability to plant our crops. This means we have less food to harvest not only for ourselves but for our cattle as well. What does that mean? Not enough food, not enough cattle and *boom* country imports go up to support our citizens’ demands. Think that’s not enough trouble? Then think about how difficult it will be to get our farmers to cooperate and help the “shared community” which project Agrytech aims to create. As you can see there are lots of obstacles to overcome. Some might require extra effort in other sectors to compensate for the performance and production shortage they cause. We can only hope that the technology and proper guidance by the Agrytech program is good enough to set us in the right direction towards a better, brighter future. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsfUfj9Gjzk For those who would like to learn more about the program or are qualified to join the Agrytech movement,
. If you’ve decided to join, hurry up; applications to the Agrytech Accelerator Program are open until April 19
Contributed by Yahya A. Abbas
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