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Qoot members learn about Creativity and Innovation

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QOOT - the agri-food innovation cluster, organized a two-day workshop on Creativity and Innovation presented by Maher Mezher, one of the top experts in innovation in the region and founder and managing director at Innovators League.

 

During the two-day workshop, the members of Qoot worked on a series of individual and group exercises and interactions to overcome challenges, solve problems, and achieve strategic goals through innovation. The workshop guided the agri-food companies toward strategically thinking to expand and develop innovation in their respective companies.

 

They were also introduced to best practices for developing innovative products, services, processes and business models, and evaluate the different types of innovations taking place in their workplace. Mezher worked with the participants and presented the key steps to accelerate and improve their innovation through a positive culture by encouraging leadership and use of creative techniques.

 

Participants were also introduced to new processes, tools and techniques to innovate and develop their idea, product or service while familiarizing them with the different types of innovation and their importance on the innovation matrix. Mezher advised the use of innovation software to encourage employees to share their ideas and innovations top management on an innovation software.

 

Following the Creativity and Innovation Workshop, the participants are scheduled to pitch their idea and innovation to Berytech and Innovators League to get feedback to take their idea or innovation further.

 

With a mission to accelerate innovation in the agri-food sector, QOOT, initiated by Berytech and the Embassy of the Netherlands under the Agrytech program, was launched in February 2019 and gathers successful Lebanese entrepreneurs and pioneers to collaborate, promote and develop smarter solutions in the sector. 


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Collaboration with European Clusters

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QOOT is now registered on the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP) - a service facility aiming to provide cluster organizations with modern tools which allow to make efficient use of networking instruments, to develop collaboration within Europe and beyond, support the emergence of new value chains through cross-sectorial cooperation, access the latest quality information on cluster development, and to improve their performance and increase their – as well as their members’ - competitiveness.

 

Although the European cluster organizations, by their number and long history of development, make an important part of the platform, ECCP is open and connected to the whole world and aims to become the leading European hub for international cluster cooperation, building cluster bridges between Europe and the world.

 

QOOT works to accelerate innovation in the Agri-Food sector by bringing innovators, knowledge providers, investors and support institutions, all under one umbrella, creating the right environment and offering the services required for Collaboration, Sustainable Growth and Internationalization of the Lebanese Agri Food sector.


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QOOT at THE NEXT SOCIETY's Techdays

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QOOT, Lebanon’s Agri-food Innovation Cluster, participated in #Techdays, a 3-day meeting event between European and MENA region cluster managers. This first edition was organized on April 9 to 12 in Casablanca, Morocco by the European Commission through the European Cluster Collaboration Platform and THE NEXT SOCIETY.

 

Promoting Collaboration

Jihane Chahla - QOOT cluster manager, attended the event, where for 3 days cluster managers benefited from strong support: targeted training on Industry 4.0, South-South cooperation and C2C collaboration between Europe and the southern shore of the Mediterranean; bilateral meetings to identify business opportunities for clusters and their members; moments of relaxation and networking; visits to local organizations of great interest (MAScIR Foundation, ESITH - Higher School of Textile and Clothing Industries, CTI - Moroccan Industrial Technical Centers) and other activities that accelerated exchanges with cluster peers with the objective to build relationships and co-build business relationships.

“EU and MENA clusters were matched in working teams based on their cooperation profiles, their priority topics and the business opportunities targeted by their members,” explains Chahla.

“Because the main interest of QOOT is internationalization for its Lebanese members, the event brought in potential collaboration on many levels: a possible collaboration with the packaging cluster in Spain, another with the food cluster in Latvia that has the same mission as QOOT, and a partnership with Food Net Metacluster, allowing us access to all their resources of training, studies and partners.”

 

Cluster Booster Track

The event is offered to clusters in the MENA region as part of the Cluster Booster Track, a tailor-made support program for cluster managers supported by THE NEXT SOCIETY. The program supports strategic sectors in the Euro-Mediterranean region: transport and logistics; agriculture and the agri-food industry, energy and the environment; information and communication technologies (ICT), mechatronics and the textile industry.

It is a peer support and training program that assists cluster managers in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia to improve their management skills, to increase their business opportunities and to open new channels of collaboration at national and international level.

The Cluster Booster Track offers many services: a needs diagnosis phase, benchmarking visits and training, a mentoring program for cluster managers, #TechDays and international market missions. All activities aim to strengthen strategic cooperation between European and South Mediterranean clusters, thus contributing to the creation of a strong cluster community in the Mediterranean region.


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Exhibiting Agri-Food Innovation at HORECA

Berytech at HORECA 2019_web

Horeca 2019 for a better industry

Members of QOOT - the Lebanese agri-food innovation cluster, joined Berytech and its incubated startups from the Agrytech Accelerator, as well as innovative producers in the same sector at this year's HORECA - the annual trade fair which has become an essential business meeting place for the hospitality, foodservice and beverage industries.

HORECA 2019, themed “for a better industry” spotlighted the latest trends, innovations and market solutions. Indeed, and over the course of four days, more than 18,000 professionals attended the fair visiting over 350 exhibitors.

Panels: Annual Hospitality Forum

During the Annual Hospitality Forum, members from Berytech and QOOT organized and moderated two panels related to innovation in the agri-food sector.

The first panel - entitled ‘On-demand Services Reshaping F&B’, explored the new digital services in the F&B industry, how technology is transforming the food delivery scene, as well as the broader technologies and trends that are impacting the sector.

The second panel answered the question ‘Can Lebanese agro-food processors meet the innovation demands of HoReCa?’ It discussed how innovations from Lebanon are meeting those requests as the sector is always in demand of new products and ingredients.

Read more here.


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QOOT Gathers Innovative Agri-Food Companies

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With a mission to accelerate innovation in the agri-food sector, QOOT - which means food and sustenance in Arabic, launched in February 2019 at the Lebanon Agri-Food Innovation Day 2019.

The first agri-food innovation cluster in Lebanon, QOOT has gathered successful Lebanese entrepreneurs and pioneers to collaborate, promote and develop smarter solutions in the sector. QOOT was initiated by Berytech and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and it is being implemented by FoodValley NL, the leading agri-food cluster in the Netherlands.

Meet below the first cluster members through the innovations that have made them eligible to be part of QOOT.

 

209 Lebanese Wine

209 Lebanese Wine is Lebanon’s first one-stop online shop for locally produced wines and spirits (gin, vodka, and arak) where users can order bottles online and have them delivered to their doorstep. The platform includes the vast majority of Lebanese wines ranging from small producers who may have limited distribution to large wineries who sometimes want to make their older vintages more accessible.

209 Lebanese Wine acts as an online sommelier giving users guidance on wine pairings and wines to match their taste or budget to name some examples. The wines are mainly distributed locally but a collection of them have begun their international journey. They are graduates of Berytech's Agrytech Program.

 

Al Rifai

Al Rifai has implemented a firm traceability system starting with the reception of the raw materials and until the distribution of the end products. At each stage of the production process, a lot number is assigned to the processed goods. Delegated personnel are responsible for carrying out the different traceability tasks including ensuring the right system implementation in the processing area or keeping track of related records in Al Rifai’s ERP system.

 

arcenciel

arcenciel’s agricultural program, in cooperation with the faculty of Sciences of Saint Joseph University, has succeeded in developing Lebanon’s first bio-pesticide. arcenciel’s bio-pesticide contains crystal proteins of the local strain of bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis which targets larva belonging to the family of Lepidoptera. The Lepidoptera, in high numbers, wreak havoc on a wide range of crops such as grapes, olives, tomatoes, apples and pine trees and are a growing threat to the Lebanese eco-system, threatening Cedars. The product works by triggering crystal toxicity under specific pH conditions and enzyme activity within the insect’s intestine, blocking its digestive system receptors leading to cellular death. This process makes the product safe to humans, microorganisms, animals or other non-targeted and beneficial insects.

 

Bioland

Bioland produces organic fruits and vegetables, cow and goat dairy products (organic goat dairy products are seasonal), meats and chickens, dried fruits and nuts, honey, olive oil, and mooneh products and essential oils. Since eating organic is still a niche market in Lebanon and perceived as only for the wealthy because of its higher than conventional agriculture price tag, Bioland is trying to do two things. It is trying to make organic products affordable for everyone in Lebanon, especially for fruits and vegetables where the cost of production is close to conventional agriculture. The extra price for organic is in the certificate and in the risk of having to throw away all the crop if there is a diseased product since antibiotics cannot be used on organic produce. Bioland has established, over the years, three distillation sites in Lebanon which use steam technology, the newest technique to get the best yield and oil quality. Bioland has developed exclusive contracts with farmers for raw material production and with global companies for final product selling.

 

Biolicious

Biolicious offers a range of certified organic, wholesome and gluten-free food packed with nutrients and flavor. The ingredients used in Biolicious and the way they’re combined (the healthy offering) as well the profile of the product itself are all innovative. For example, Biolicious crackers are made of 80 percent vegetables and soaked seeds; kale chips were adopted to local taste using local flavors like tahini, sumac, and pomegranate molasses. Biolicious commercialized and modernized traditional ways of preparing food (such as soaking seeds).

 

Colonel Beer

Colonel began selling growlers - meaning two-liter glass gallons of beer filled up fresh - a year and a half ago at their brewery in Batroun. The beer in the growler lasts for two weeks. Once consumers are done with the beer, they bring the jug back and refill it from the brewery itself or any pub that sells Colonel draft beer.

 

Crown Flour Mills

Crown Flour Mills produces standard pita bread mixes but recently developed a mix for double layer gluten-free bread and a double layer low glycemic index bread mix ideal for those with diabetes.

 

Daher Foods

Sunset yellow is the common name of a synthetic azo dye commonly used to color and flavor potato chips and crackers. Daher Foods have replaced sunset yellow in their paprika and cheese lines of chips with natural products called paprika extract and Carmine (both of which produce red colors). While they are more expensive that sunset yellow, Daher Foods believes it is worth the extra cost.

 

Eshmoon

Many aspects of Eshmoon are innovative and can be summed up with coming back to our local roots in order to express their unique local identity. Eshmoon’s philosophy and mindset of being true to themselves are what makes them innovative and drives their solutions. Eshmoon uses local products such as carob molasses to sweeten their chocolates and desserts. The logo itself is a reflection of their identity and is unique in that it combines five elements of nature (air, fire, minerals, water, and wood).

 

GoBaladi

GoBaladi produces a conventional and certified organic goat dairy products range (including local essentials such as Laban, soft labneh, halloumi, double crème, and milk) made from local goat milk. Working with local goats to produce a diverse line of dairy products had never been done before and came with challenges but GoBaladi persevered because they believed in a sustainable ecosystem. For example, local goats only produce milk from March to September and so GoBaladi got techniques which are applied on European goats to make them produce milk yearlong and applied them to the local goats used for the conventional line (it is against the regulations of the organic certifications to interfere with the goats’ habits). GoBaladi also worked the local goat farmers - who are mainly uneducated and with little resources - on best hygienic practices and on how to increase the yield and improve the quality of milk in a natural way. Contrary to industrially farmed goats (which stay inside the farm all the time), GoBaladi’s local goats are for the most part free-range meaning they roam the pristine hills on GoBaladi’s land in Mount Sannine and feed on the grass there (in the organic line, the goats are 100 percent grass-fed while in the conventional it is 60 percent grass-fed and 40 percent feed).

 

Gout Blanc

Gout Blanc introduced two types of European goat breeds into Lebanon: the Saanen and the Alpine. These types of goats give 1,000 liters of milk per lactation and produce milk for ten months of the year; they only rest for the last two months of their pregnancy. So what Gout Blanc did is separate the goats into main groups and control their breeding so when one group is pregnant the other is producing milk and vice versa. Through this way, Gout Blanc had year-long access to fresh goats’ milk and so could produce fresh goat dairy products such as spreadable labneh (they were the first to introduce it to Lebanon) and halloumi. They were also the first to produce French goat cheese in Lebanon. Gout Blanc started with 60 goats in 2006 and through trial and error in learning how to take care of them, today they are at 1,250 goats with the aim of reaching 3,000 goats soon.

 

Heineken

Heineken released into the Lebanese market, in mid-January 2019, Heineken 0.0%, a non-alcoholic version of the internationally acclaimed all natural and premium beer. It tookHeineken’s research and development team many years to come up with a non-alcoholic brew that would retain the same refreshing taste of the alcoholic version of Heineken. Today, Heineken 0.0% tastes different from regular Heineken. However, it has the same characteristic fruity notes, but with a soft malty body. Heineken is the first beer brewery in the world to release a non-alcoholic premium beer. While there are beverages that promote themselves as non-alcoholic beer, they are in fact simply malt beverages.

 

Hum’N Go

Hum’N Go transformed a traditional plate - hummus, into a healthy grab'n go snack. Capitalizing on the trends of grab'n go and healthy snacking, the product cup includes brown breadsticks on one side and hummus in different flavors on the other side. Hum’N Go currently comes in two flavors: the original and hummus with pomegranate molasses - the latter of which is proving to be a big success in the market. Two flavors are currently under development. Hum’N Go was able to increase the shelf life of hummus from the standard 20 days to four months while remaining within EU standards (using temperature and pressure instead of preservatives) which is a major asset for the export market. Hum'N Go is a winner of the Mount Lebanon Youth competition, organized by Berytech with UNDP.

 

Karma Lebanon

Karma’s innovation is in its business model which added value to the fresh produce export business in several ways. First of all, they shortened the supply chain by procuring produce directly from the farmers and selling them directly to the retailers. Then, they reduced transit time shipping their produce by air instead of land or sea freight. To improve the process even further, they partnered with DHL International which offered them exclusive cold storage at Beirut RH Airport, made accessible dedicated customs clearance and launched scheduled flights of DHL’s own cargo planes to transport Karma’s produce faster and more efficiently than a regular commercial flight.

 

Chateau Kefraya

Chateau Kefraya undertook a comprehensive study over all of its lands, using technology to better understand it. They began by using 'drone technology' to obtain a top view of their vineyards, allowing them to identify, through the different shades of colors, which zones of parcels have a similar soil type. They then took samples from each zone to analyze the topography of the soils, with the help of a specialist in Pedology. After a better understanding of its vineyards, Chateau Kefraya moved to the 'micro-climate' study. For that step, they attached sensors to each zone of the grapevines to understand the impact of the micro-climate parameters on it: humidity, water, temperature, and soil moisture on the grapes; a set of information used for the sake of the quality of wine that will be later produced. Chateau Kefraya is one of the worldwide pioneers to use this technology on wine and the first to use it in Lebanon.

 

LibanJus

LibanJus was the first factory in Lebanon to make use of solar energy with the initial phase of 135-kilowatt peak (KWp) executed in partnership with the UNDP and partially funded by the EU. The remaining phases were funded by LibanJus while benefiting from Green loans. As of two months ago, LibanJus has 920 KWp of solar panels installed. LibanJus’s solar panels stretch across the factory’s roofs and cover an area of 6,000 meters squared. The factory runs on 50 percent green energy. It took LibanJus a year of engineering to be able to override the problem of Lebanon’s electricity cuts which are not conducive to large scale solar plants.

 

Riachy Vineyards

Riachy Vineyards introduced a selection of cool climate Lebanese wines produced at high-altitude regions that are prone to high climatic variability. Located at 1600 meters of altitude in Mount-Lebanon, Riachy Vineyard grapes mature slowly during the mountainous colder nights and milder diurnal temperatures. This leads to a late-season harvest which allows Riachy Vineyards wines to slowly unfold their unique character.

 

Robinson Agri

Robinson Agri works behind the scenes, but it is very much involved in the food value chain. Robinson Agri is driven by their motto of sustainable innovation and by their commitment to improving living conditions which they see as part of their CSR. As an implementation of their motto and CSR, they are introducing new techniques to the agricultural sector and enabling innovation. They adopted a new technique in agriculture called grafting to improve the vigor of the vegetable plants and their yield and reduce the use of pesticides. Robinson Agri also implemented smart irrigation solutions in agriculture to decrease water consumption while increasing the production of fruits and vegetables and boosting quality and uniformity. With the one cut lettuce that Robinson Agri introduced, less water is used to clean the lettuce; time is saved with minimum food waste – which is very important in the hospitality business.

 

Shuman Farms

The innovation of Shuman Farms lies in improving feed efficiency. They developed a feed evaluation system with research centers in Europe through which they optimize the technical performance of the chicken. Health and management systems are constantly changing, and Shuman’s feed evaluation system is changing along as well. This system is the product of an ongoing Research and Innovation Program which was also developed by Shuman Farms and which has a mission to stay up to date on the latest techniques and research relating to poultry.

 

Smart Gourmet

Smart Gourmet is producing a line of healthy and authentic Lebanese food that is rich in vitamins and is bacteria free. It has no preservatives and yet it has a one-year shelf life. They were the first in the world to develop this technology for extending the shelf life of food products without using preservatives through a cooking process and technique. Smart Gourmet is a graduate of Berytech's Agrytech Program.

 

Teknologix

Teknologix has developed a software solution applied to food and beverage processing machinery (since this is the most prevalent industry in Lebanon) which automates the generation of machinery related data reports. Teknologix’s software solution programs the machinery in a way that they process the raw data stored within them into useful reports which can be analyzed by the business owners.

 

The Good Thymes

The Good Thymes took zaatar, the ingredient that every Lebanese knows and loves, and developed a brand and a story around it. Moving beyond this, The Good Thymes developed ten mixes of zaatar, including spicy zaatar, fruity zaatar or zaatar with keshk transforming zaatar into a unique product. The Good Thymes has also developed a herbal infusion based on zaatar.

 

UNIPAK

UNIPAK has shifted from being simply a box producer to also becoming a packaging consultant working with its customers on optimized solutions for their packaging needs. A new platform has been set in place to offer customers the ability to manage their packaging supply chain activities from the comfort of their desks. Through this platform, customers can benefit from consultancy on their packaging problems, receive solutions using the lasted 3D design tools, and place and track their orders online.

 

Zakka Technologies

Zakka Technologies provides alternative solutions for industrial needs. They pride themselves on their flexibility with their customers, providing them with numerous options and solutions, as well as their fast response. For example, Zakka Technologies has a new generation of industrial printers (used to label expiry and production dates on packages) which uses HP technology with cartridges. This means that unlike conventional industrial printers, it uses much fewer consumables like inks or solvents, requires little to no service or maintenance and is more compact. Another example is a filling machine that requires no electricity and no compressed air. It is semi-automated and thus ideal for medium size operations. Zakka technologies also provide top quality fully automated filling, capping and labeling lines as well as packaging machines for various application, powder, and viscous product filling machines all of which make use of the latest technologies and energy conservation developments.

 

Zejd

With a startup called Rigino (Agrytech Program Batch II), Zejd – producer of a wide range of fruity extra virgin olive oils and flavored oils, will be utilizing a production and traceability software to be able to efficiently trace any product from the shelf back to its raw material. Youssef Fares, the founder of Zejd, hopes that with time, this software will be developed on blockchain technology meaning that each part of the production chain will independently enter their data. He is also planning on eventually using the Internet of Things to optimize the production line.


Become a member of QOOT by clicking here.


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QOOT: launching Lebanon’s First Agri-Food Innovation Cluster

QOOT Lebanon Agrifood Innovation Cluster_web

QOOT, which means food and sustenance in Arabic, is the first Agri-food innovation cluster in Lebanon. It was officially launched at the Lebanon Agri-Food Innovation Day 2019, an event organized by Berytech, with the support of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and under the patronage of H.E. Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

 

Back on the world food innovation map

QOOT’s vision is to be the leading Agri-Food Innovation Cluster in the MENA region, placing Lebanon at the center of the world food innovation map. It is driven by the mission to accelerate innovation in the agri-food sector by bringing innovators, knowledge providers, investors and support institutions under one umbrella, creating the right environment and offering the services required for collaboration, sustainable growth and internationalization of the Lebanese agri-food sector.

The launch of the QOOT cluster took its roots in Lebanese and international companies based in Lebanon, believing in the potential of Lebanon, believing in collaboration, believing that innovation is core to their DNA and can change the way they grow and the way they expand,” comments Maroun N. Chammas, Chairman and CEO of Berytech. “I have high beliefs that this cluster, with the support of the private sector and the international community, could be an example for Lebanon, for the region and beyond.”

 

Setting up the cluster

Successful Lebanese entrepreneurs and pioneers have joined forces to tackle the challenges in the Agri-Food sector, building on collaboration, promoting and developing smarter solutions, and combining assets and efforts to shape this clustering concept.

Championed by Berytech and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Lebanon under the Agrytech Program, QOOT is being implemented in Lebanon with the support of Food Valley NL, one of the leading food innovation clusters in the world. Indeed, Berytech had solicited the expertise of Dr. Roger Van Hoesel, head of Food Valley NL and a member of the Agrytech Program Advisory Board, to help in developing the cluster.

This cluster is the first of its kind in the country and will help Lebanon to be leader in that aspect regionally. It can also gradually help the agri-food sector to be competitive and enable enterprises to innovate,” comments Van Hoesel.

Current board members of QOOT are representative of Berytech, Shuman Farms, Teknologix, Biolicious, GoBaladi, Chateau Kefraya, Brasserie Almaza, and Robinson Agri.

During her speech at the launch ceremony, QOOT president, Nadine Khoury – COO of Robinson Agri, explained that the cluster is armed with ambitious goals. “Building an economy for the 21st century - one that is greener, more innovative and more effective, QOOT is presented as a factor to drive the growth of the sector through innovation, competitiveness, and support networks, to help protect and increase employment, improve efficiencies and linkages, and foster development.”

 

Immediate Goals

Among the cluster’s immediate goals is to establish closer relations between small, medium and large enterprises in order to provide added value to the overall market. Members will have the opportunity to exchange accumulated experience and to access valuable knowledge and business opportunities locally and internationally.

QOOT will ultimately strengthen the position of the Lebanese Agri-Food sector, attracting talents, developing new products and services and promoting Lebanese cuisine and agro products as among the most innovative and healthy in the world, while also attracting foreign investments.

 

Memberships

The cluster is open for innovation-driven agri-food organizations and providers of smart agri-food services and products including multi-nationals present in Lebanon, large agri-food businesses, SMEs and startups. Innovation in the agri-food sector can be defined by, but not restricted to, the business model or concept, agricultural and processing technique, new product variety or breed, new packaging, as well as technology and automation.

Current QOOT members include 26 Lebanese and International companies in Lebanon: 209 Lebanese Wine, Al Rifai, Arcenciel, Bioland, Biolicious, Brasserie Almaza, Chateau Kefraya, Colonel Beer, Crown Flour Mills, Daher Foods, Eshmoon Holistics, Go Baladi, Gout Blanc, House of Zejd, Hum’n go, Karma, Libanjus, Riachi Vineyards, Robinson Agri, Shuman Farms, Smart Gourmet, Teknologix, The Good Thymes, Unifert, Unipak, and Zakka Technologies.


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Framework set for a Lebanese agri-food innovation cluster

Agri-Food Innovation Cluster-web

The Agri-Food Innovation Cluster, the first in Lebanon and the region, is being setup by professionals in the sector through the Agrytech Program.

Launched in 2017 and funded jointly by Berytech and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Agrytech Program aims to source the top startups with disruptive innovations in the Agri-Food sector and provide them with the adequate technical and business resources as well as community support to scale their ideas into successful businesses with global impact.

 

A platform for startups and companies

One of the main pillars of the Agrytech Program - Lebanon’s Agri-Food Innovation Hub, is to create a platform where both startups and existing companies in the Lebanese agri-food sector can come together and work on increasing the competitiveness of the sector and placing Lebanon back on the innovation map, both at regional and international levels. “This kind of interaction and collaboration are referred to as a cluster, with the main objective of building synergies and promoting for a smarter agri-food sector, both nationally and internationally,” explains Ramy Boujawdeh, Berytech Deputy GM.

The main advantages that companies gain from being part of a cluster are ease of access to expertise, skilled workers, input suppliers, information channels, and linkages to new markets. “Ultimately, this results in improved competitiveness, as seen with different clusters around the world”, continues Boujawdeh.

The Agri-Food Innovation Cluster, championed by Berytech, is being setup up with founding members representing leading enterprises in the sector, including Nabil Shuman – Agriplus, Hassan Beydoun – Balkis, Rami Boujawdeh – Berytech, Rima Memari – Biolicious, Jan-Willem Roossink - Brasserie Almaza S.A.L., Rani Azzi and Edouard Kosremelli - Chateau Kefraya, Anis AbuJaoudeh - Crown Flour Mills, Andre Hajjar - Go Baladi, Jihad Daher - Gout Blanc, Hadi Kehaleh - Ixsir Winery, and Nadine Khoury - Robinson Agri.

Berytech has also solicited the expertise of Roger Van Hoesel, head of Food Valley NL - one of the first professional food clusters in the world, and a member of the Agrytech Program Advisory Board, to help in developing the cluster. “This cluster is the first of its kind in the region and will help Lebanon to be leader in that aspect. It can also gradually help the agri-food sector to be competitive and enable enterprises to innovate,” comments Van Hoesel.

 

Establishing a need

We knew that what worked abroad may not work in Lebanon,” comments Boujawdeh, “so there was a need to first test the ground, to see whether such a cluster would be beneficial and demanded by the different stakeholders, namely the agri-food enterprises.” An assessment was carried out to analyze the local ecosystem, and test the idea of setting up a cluster, identifying its potential benefits and modus operandi, as well as the synergies it would create with other existing associations representing the sector.

The assessment revealed interesting insights into the industry. Different syndicates and associations have worked for several years to represent the interest of their members and help create a better business-enabling environment for the sectors they represent, including the agri-food sector. However, the limited financial and human resources negatively influenced their performance, limiting their role to advocacy and participation in international trade shows.

The challenges and gaps enlarged with the years, as the country witnessed different economic slowdowns, and thus the needs of the enterprises grew beyond the services provided.

The agri-food sector in Lebanon has enormous potential, and in order to regain our rightful place as major players on the world map, we need to push innovation,” explains Boujawdeh. “Be it through process or product innovation, enterprises need to innovate, and this process requires long-term support for integration, and hence the need for an Agri-Food Innovation Cluster.

 

Finding the right people

Having established the need and will for setting-up the cluster, the next step was to find enterprises who were willing to join and work closely with Berytech through the Agrytech Program to setup the groundwork including setting the vision and mission, the operational model, strategy, as well as attracting new members.

Our quest for members started, and we contacted those who had expressed interest in the cluster and asked them to join,” says Boujawdeh. A first meeting was setup in November 2017 with 11 enterprises, both startups and established ones, who have now become the founding members.

 

Next Steps

According to Boujawdeh, the next steps are crucial. “We need to build trust among the members and help them think beyond their personal interests, think for the interest of the sub-sectors they represent.

Regular meetings are now scheduled every 3 weeks at different locations, rotating between the headquarters of each founding member’s company. The members also participated in a workshop given by Food Valley NL in January 2018, where tasks were divided, and committees were formed.

The next meeting is set for mid-February 2018 and the agenda will include defining the vision and mission as well as setting the governance and business model of the Cluster.

The Agri-Food Innovation Cluster is envisioned to become the driving force of the Agri-Food innovators, industry leaders and expert community by stimulating innovation, reinforcing mutual exchanges, and setting international legitimacy. We are very excited!” concludes Boujawdeh.