robinson agri

SURVIVING AND THRIVING IN TIMES OF ADVERSITY- Robinson Agri's story

robinson agriThe first half of 2020 has brought tremendous challenges to Lebanese businesses. This is how Robinson Agri, QOOT Cluster member, reacted to the crisis.

Throughout the years, Robinson Agri has been fully dedicated to adding value to every step of the agricultural chain through technology, innovation, consistent follow up and outstanding service.

Their choice has always been investing where it matters to growers, to new investors, to Lebanese agriculture - thus regularly conducting trials to select the best supplies that fits the market while protecting our environment and protecting our natural resources.

In times of crisis, Robinson Agri's mission remains to support Lebanese Agriculture to produce enough affordable healthy food.

For this end, Robinson Agri launched its new online campaign having as a core to raise awareness about the role of agriculture in securing food, contributing to the UN Sustainable development goals as part of their commitment, encouraging new investment in the agricultural industry, empowering small and medium growers, and preserving water and improving sustainability in agribusiness.

As a leading company in the agriculture sector in Lebanon, Robinson Agri does not settle for resilient. It  thrives to support farmers by sharing knowledge and techniques , encourage new players in the agricultural field and stimulate healthy vegetable production and consumption.

You can check their posts on this link facebook.com/RobinsonAgri


UNIPAK

SURVIVING AND THRIVING IN TIMES OF ADVERSITY - UNIPAK's story

UNIPAK

The first half of 2020 has brought tremendous challenges to Lebanese businesses. This is how UNIPAK, QOOT Cluster member, reacted to the crisis.

UNIPAK THE SHOP
In times of adversity, UNIPAK launched UNIPAK-The Shop seeking to respond to the new market demands in this changing marketplace and fulfill the needs of e-commerce businesses. UNIPAK-The Shop aims to offer a wide array of standard e-commerce delivery packaging solutions to small and growing businesses that will be able to order small volumes of standard boxes online or by visiting their shops in Halat & Zahle.

The line is a comprehensive solution for small-to-medium-sized businesses within the apparel, arts and craft, fashion and home designs, personal care, electronics, organic food, and supermarket industries that require standard delivery boxes. The products can determine new online shopping trends while remaining committed to the environment with eco-friendly, recycled, and sustainable boxes. The line includes several e-commerce boxes with or without handles, in addition to grocery boxes and the environmentally-friendly corrugated bubble wrap. Sold in small quantities, users have the ability to buy as low as one bundle from the item they are interested in without encountering high production costs. They could also benefit from a delivery service for a fixed fee regardless of the order volume or delivery location.

WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND THE NEW SHOP?
Having listened to the needs of the market in these unprecedented times, UNIPAK adapted to the reality of a new life where everything is done remotely, from a distance; and have launched the standard e-commerce line which was instrumental to respond to these demanding market requirements and adapt to new customers’ shopping behaviors. In addition, their in-house experience of product development, branding, and manufacturing capabilities that spans over 40 years, allowed them to offer competitive and innovative solutions in a short period of time.

WHY CORRUGATED PACKAGING?
UNIPAK's commitment to environmental protection defines the scope of their production. Cardboard is an eco-friendly packaging solution and their boxes are 100% recyclable due to the materials employed in their production, in line with UNIPAK's efforts to remain committed to the environment and underscore the cutting-edge that characterizes their products.

WHO IS IT BENIFITTING?
Entrepreneurs and owners of small-businesses are benefiting from purchasing in low volume without having the need to stock at their end.

Alcoholic beverage companies can create a memorable unboxing experience for their clients upon purchasing gift sets or ordering bottles. Bottles can be safely wrapped with our eco-bubble wrap to ensure optimum protection during transportation. Also, producers of fresh produce could benefit from the heavy-duty grocery box that can carry up to 20 kilograms of items as a safe solution for hygiene deliveries. In addition, local producers of organic and food-related items can create a memorable unboxing experience while ensuring you meet hygiene standards.

You can place an order via UNIPAK's Instagram page @unipaktheshop, or through WhatsApp +961 9 209 121.


smlc

Matchmaking between SMLC and Teknologix

smlc

QOOT Cluster has for mission to help Lebanese agri-food innovators thrive by creating the ideal environment for agri-food businesses to strengthen their expertise, fuel their ideas, establish themselves in new markets, and build fruitful partnership.

A successful example of the above is the case of SMLC working with Teknologix, both QOOT Cluster members, to put an end to manual data entry, providing comprehensive information for efficient filling operations.

A PepsiCo partner since 1952, Société Moderne Libanaise pour le Commerce (SMLC) in Lebanon, bottles and distributes the popular PepsiCo brands of soft drinks, iced tea, sports drinks, juices, energy drinks, and water. In the past, production data acquisition and management information involved manual data recording using paper forms and spreadsheet software. Reports were often inaccurate and sometimes contradicting. In some instances, they even reflected a desired status rather than actual reporting values. An attempt at line automation using process visualization systems from major global automation solutions with numerous addons failed to fulfil the customer’s reporting requirements. Reports were slow, they often failed to refresh and frequently crashed.

SMLC awarded the contract for a pilot installation covering one bottling line to Teknologix. This team of industrial automation specialists based in Beirut enjoyed a favorable reputation from various automation and retrofitting projects they had successfully implemented for SMLC in previous years. Unlike European suppliers, they also did not need to include massive travel expenses for commissioning and after sales support in their proposal.

To reduce the amount of data to transport and process, Teknologix designed a system configuration using a PLC for each line to collect, concentrate and pre-process the information from the line’s individual stations. They used zenon software from COPADATA to implement a comprehensive data acquisition and line management solution for five beverage production lines, one for returnable bottles, two with PET bottles and two with cans.

Read the full article here.

 


Zoom & Learn - 6th event laptop

Zoom In & Learn: Best practices in times of crisis

Zoom & Learn - 6th event laptop

In this edition of the Zoom In & Learn series, QOOT Cluster brought together Cluster members to share their best practices in times of crisis.

Best practice tools by QOOT Cluster members

QOOT Cluster invited three guest speakers to share their best practice tools in times of crisis. The speakers were Lina Zgheib - Seed Line manager at Robinson Agri, Valerie Zakka - Founder of Zakka Technologies, and Lucien Kazzi - Managing partner at Teknologix S.A.R.L.

Hydroponic and hybrid seeds

Lina Zgheib explained the importance of the hybrid seeds having higher yield, better taste, tolerance to diseases, longer shelf life, and resistant to draught. Focusing on the challenges faced in the agriculture sector from feeding growing population, urbanization, climate change, soil depletion, and limited resources to water, Lina presented the importance of the hydroponic system and nutrient film technique as it provides higher production, less disease pressure, soil disinfection, less chemicals used thus healthier products among many others. Lina ended her intervention with “Stay safe and positive, eat healthy and invest wisely in agriculture”.

Smart Machine Investments: Profitability & Safety Drivers

Valerie Zakka, founder of Zakka technologies, presented the different types of machinery existing in the market to facilitate the processes in the agri-food sector. She emphasized that machines should be considered as an investment rather than a cost. She listed the advantages of acquiring equipment such as the ability to innovate and offer new products to mature markets, increasing accuracy in terms of weight and volumes, and improving quality control.

From Classic Techniques To Robotics Automation As A Survival Tool In Times Of Crisis

Lucien Kazzi, presented the automation trends highlighting the fields of application where automation plays a significant role in reducing losses, increasing profitability, and improving the product quality. When looking at the trends in automation, the first level is to look at the field level, then move to the control level, supervisory level, planning level to arrive to the management level (ERP).


Watch the webinar here.


Taste-of-Lebanon_web

Surviving and Thriving in Times of Adversity

Taste-of-Lebanon_web
Photo courtesy of The Good Thymes

 

The first half of 2020 has brought tremendous challenges to Lebanese businesses. Lebanon has suffered its worst economic and financial crisis since the civil war, resulting in recession, the plummeting of the Lebanese Pound value, and rising inflation. The situation was aggravated as the country went into complete lockdown for almost 4 months to reduce the spread of Coronavirus.

How have small businesses survived the last 6 months?

Berytech reached out to agri-food startups and small enterprises that are members of the QOOT Cluster to understand how they dealt with this snowball of challenges, getting a closer look at how they diverted their strategies and diversified their offering to survive this period and thrive in the quick-changing world order.

From improving efficiency, innovating new products, growing exports and online sales, and focusing on the community, read about how the QOOT Cluster members survived and thrived during these times of adversity.

Read the full article on Berytech's blog section here.

 

 


Zoom In & Learn: Innovation and Resilience in Times of Crisis

In its third Zoom In & Learn edition, QOOT Cluster brought together Lebanese enterprises and SMEs, knowledge providers and support institutions to learn about joint R&D projects, shedding light on consumer behavior in the current economic situation.

 

This third edition shed light about innovation and resilience in times of crisis.

 

Expert speaker Dr. Mohab Anis - professor at the American university of Cairo, founder and CEO of Innovety, took the audience through the principles of innovation in the pandemic era.

Patrick Atmeh - the Job Creation Operations Manager at the Economic and Social Fund for Development (ESFD), discussed funding opportunities that are provided by ESFD.

Zeina Daccache-  MA in clinical psychology and registered drama therapist, took the audience through the ‘Hero’s Journey’ discussing resilience in times of crisis.

 

Innovating your business in the new normal

Dr. Anis explained how, during the pandemic, he was part of a global think tank to identify the directions that businesses needed to work on during and most importantly post the COVID-19 pandemic. With the social distancing measures taken to flatten the curve, a slowdown affected all types of businesses and operations. Despite closures and bankruptcies catalyzed by the pandemic, it is very important for businesses to get back into action fast.

Getting over customer fears is the first step in establishing trust. Solutions have been imposed by governments including distancing in public spaces which might not be practical, culturally sensitive nor economical. Dr. Anis offered 12 innovative design principles beyond the obvious “Six Feet Apart” solutions and walked the audience through six of them.

The first principle is based on the concept of de-centralized operations, which means transferring part of the operation elsewhere to reduce congestion. The second one is a DIY (Do It Yourself) approach that provides people with the necessary tools to take part in the development of goods, services or activities. A third principle is adding barriers between customers and servers. Another principle is time segmentation where internal operations and people are separated into time units to offer the services. Another powerful concept is the touchless experience where companies eliminate the element of touch that individuals go through when coming in contact with objects, or with each other. And finally, Dr. Anis discussed a sixth principle of resorting to digital platforms or virtual solutions to replace or complement physical offerings.

These are all models that companies need to think about when working on products or services to evolve post-pandemic. Once going back to work, each company needs to check its client’s journey within the company to identify health risk gaps and tackle them with new solutions.

 

Funding Opportunities

Patrick Atmeh is a UNDP Consultant, assisting the ‘Economic & Social Fund for Development’ (ESFD) in providing financial and non-financial services to SMEs since 2011. For the past 8 years, Patrick has been delivering financial advisory to small entrepreneurs, helping them applying for loans with commercial banks.

Atmeh introduced the ESFD to the audience as a governmental body who works in the poverty alleviation in Lebanon through the creation of job opportunities and improving living conditions in disadvantaged areas. The job creation component aims at creating jobs and insuring inclusion through the provision of financial and non-financial services. It provides a set of loans provided to targeted SMEs. Loans amount up to LBP 75 Million, with repayment period up to 5 years and a grace period up to 1 year and a subsidized interest rate at 7.65%. Beneficiaries include SME owners in Syrian refugee hosting communities, with projects in high job creation potential emphasizing on women entrepreneurs.

 

Resilience in Times of Crisis

Zeina Daccache, through the NPO she founded in 2007, Catharsis-Lebanese Center for Drama Therapy, brought the innovative tools of drama therapy to Lebanon. In her intervention, she addressed people who are experiencing anxiety from the difficult times the country is going through.

She explained the Hero’s Journey a technique she has been using to help people deal with difficult situations. The technique helps people who don’t have control over their situation requiring them to write about 4 persons in their lives. The first is a person from their childhood that they admire and associate 3 qualities to them. The second is to think of a hero from their adulthood, and also write down 3 qualities about them. The third person they need to think about is a world-famous person, and also write down 3 qualities about them. Finally, the person needs to think of his/her preferred animal and write down what they enjoy or relate to in them.

With that the person ends up with 12 qualities and the concept of the Hero’s Journey indicates that the person already possesses these qualities.

“Just because I am capable of doing this projection means that I am capable of seeing these qualities in other people but not in myself. If you don’t believe that you own these qualities, pretend that these 4 people are around you and start a conversation with them. Ask them questions and try answering them from their point of view. You will slowly realize that these qualities that you have projected are inherent to you and they will help you cope during times of crisis,” explained Daccache.


Watch the webinar here.


Food Safety, Everyone's Business

 

The second World Food Safety Day (WFSD) is celebrated on June 7, 2020 to draw attention and inspire action to help prevent, detect and manage food-borne risks, contributing to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, market access, tourism and sustainable development.

Under the theme “food safety, everyone’s business”, the action-oriented campaign promotes global food safety awareness and calls upon countries and decision makers, the private sector, civil society, UN organizations and the general public to take action.

Food safety is a shared responsibility between governments, producers and consumers. Everybody has a role to play from farm to table to ensure the food we consume is safe and will not cause damages to our health. Through the World Food Safety Day, WHO pursues its efforts to mainstream food safety in the public agenda and reduce the burden of foodborne diseases globally.[1]

For the occasion, Nadine Khoury – COO of Robinson Agri and President of the QOOT Agri-Food Innovation Cluster in Lebanon, writes a blog for Berytech on the best practices they have been implementing to help observe the principles of food safety throughout the chain of agricultural production in Lebanon.

Read the full article on Berytech's blog section here.

 


[1] https://www.who.int/news-room/campaigns/world-food-safety-day/2020


Lean Methodology

QOOT Cluster organizes a session on Lean Management

Lean MethodologyParticipants from 12 different companies members in the QOOT Cluster - including Difco, Heineken, Teknologix, Zakka technologies, Robinson agri, arc en ciel, Karma, Rigino, SMLC, Cave des Ours, Café Abi Nasr and Tanmia, took part in a virtual training provided by Dany Elias to learn about surviving the crisis by adopting LEAN management. 

Passionate about the LEAN culture, Dany established Sparkers Solutions in 2017 with the mission to spread it in the region and help diversified companies in Lebanon become more efficient.

In his training Dany explained the fundamentals of the LEAN methodology that allows companies to do more with less - less time, inventory, space, people and money. It is about speed and “getting it right the first time” and most importantly it is about eliminating various forms of waste from the process.

His practical examples covered the advantages of applying a LEAN methodology in times of crisis in reducing process lead time, increase overall efficiency, improving quality, becoming more flexible in reacting to change and enhancing costumer satisfaction.

Dany’s tips to the attendees to survive the crisis covered keeping focused on the value of customers including old, new or potential. He explained that one needs to be extremely flexible in the process to meet the changing value, fast in delivering products/services, optimize the usage of resources and most importantly focus on people, people and people.


Zoom & Learn April

Collaboration as a key to overcome the economic situation

Zoom & Learn April

In its second Zoom In & Learn edition, QOOT Cluster brought together Lebanese enterprises and SMEs, knowledge providers and support institutions to learn about joint R&D projects, shedding light on consumer behavior in the current economic situation.

Collaboration to overcome the economic situation

Due to the current economic crisis as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, Lebanon is facing one the most critical economic situations ever experienced leading to businesses suffering and struggling to survive. QOOT Cluster brings together Lebanese MSMEs and large companies working on innovation in the agri-food value chain, to collaborate, support and work together to overcome the situation and push the sector forward.

Youssef Rifai, Vice-President of QOOT Cluster and Operation Manager at A Rifai Roastery, emphasizes on the importance of innovating in the sector and collaborate with different players in the industry, “QOOT Cluster is facilitating matchmaking between companies and is partnering with the academic institutions in Lebanon such AUB, USJ, University of Balamand and AUST to allow the members as well as the academia to benefit from each other in nurturing the birth of new projects.”

Rifai added: “Sharing ideas, best practices and new processes, linking these different dots and pushing for new ways to help the sector in general can only push and promote Lebanese agri-food products locally and internationally. Innovation is the drive and fuel that will bring higher efficiency, higher output and maintain, if not enhance, the quality”.

To do so, QOOT Cluster invited three guest speakers to discuss the importance of a collaborative strategy to overcome the current situation in Lebanon. The speakers included Dr. Rodrigue Balaa – Chairperson of the Department of Agricultural Engineering Technology at the Issam Fares Faculty of Technology of the University of Balamand, Jimmy Ghazal – Founder of MindLab and Senior Executive Advisor at Le Charcutier supermarket chain, and Nadine Tawk – SME and Partnerships Manager at Palladium, LEEP UKAID-funded program.

The interventions ended with a great exchange, where the different academics and professionals discussed the future steps to strengthen the collaboration between academia and the private sector.

Industry-academia partnerships: The Role of Academia in supporting the Lebanese agri-food industry

Dr. Rodrigue Balaa emphasized on the importance of collaboration between the sector and academia to accelerate innovation bringing many examples on how, through QOOT Cluster, the University of Balamand had collaborated on applied research projects with two QOOT Cluster members: SMLC, and Brasserie Almaza.

Dr. Balaa presented a Quintuple innovation helix framework done in collaboration with Industry through QOOT Cluster member Robinson Agri, with Academia (University of Balamand-IFFT), with the Civil society (FairTrade Lebanon-cooperatives), and the Public Sector (Municipalities) within the Knowledge Economy.

Dr. Balaa stressed on the fact that Lebanese industries should turn the challenges, from the complex financial situation Lebanon is facing due to local monetary devaluation to the consequences of the pandemic on the sector, into opportunities, by pushing Lebanese companies to fill the need of the market, start exporting, and start producing locally.

He ended his presentation by stressing on the importance of increasing collaboration between municipalities and local communities, adapting the academic curricula to prepare graduates for the highest level of self-sufficiency within the framework of a circular economy, and supporting applied research to create innovative solutions for local agri-food challenges.

QOOT Cluster signed several Memoranda of Understanding with major universities in Lebanon, one of them being the University of Balamand. Read more 

Consumers Behavior In Light Of The Current Situation

After presenting the importance of the relation between academia and industry, Jimmy Ghazal presented the consumer behavior changes due to the current situation.

The COVID-19 virus has affected consumer behavior, turning the mobile way of life into an astatic life. Consumers are lacking mobility and dependency, and to survive, companies need to adapt to these changes.

Ghazal commented, "You might need to reduce several items of your brand and build on the two most performing ones. Now, it is all about survival and not the ego of your brand. The ego of your brand can be regenerated, but your company can’t be”. He stressed on the importance of maintaining the reputation of the brand and finding ways to continue bonding with customers, focusing on the rise of creativity during the lockdowns. People are experimenting and finding ways to do things themselves.

Lebanon is used to being dependent on imports, which is affecting the prices with the monetary devaluation, Ghazal stressed on the importance of turning such challenges into opportunities by starting to produce locally and export. He explained that even if companies managed to build a loyalty bond with their customers, the new behavior is turning towards “availability as a new need” and “Cheaper is better”, especially in Lebanon where not only were the Lebanese affected by the economic crisis, but by the pandemic as well.

Ghazal advised the attendees to lead their team with certainty and by example, to be able to move forward. The key, he explains, is to communicate effectively, boldly, clearly, honestly, and compassionately, with the team. He also presented case studies of international companies that managed to turn challenges into opportunities by changing their initial offerings.

Some companies will not survive, because first, they can’t adapt to the situation, or they are too slow to react, or cannot afford the process. He stressed that two of the three factors are controllable: “As businesses, we need to be prepared for the after COVID-19, adapt to the situation and not be too slow to react to be able to survive.”

SME Grants Opportunities: LEEP- UKaid

In order to support SMEs, QOOT Cluster invited Nadine Tawk from the Lebanon Enterprise and Employment Program to present LEEP-UKaid to give an overview of how SMEs tocanbenefit from the program and overcome the current economic situation.

LEEP focuses on creating sustainable jobs through SME growth, targeting SMES of any sectors through matching grant funds, technical assistance based on need assessment, or wage subsidies.

To read more about the LEEP program visit www.leeplebanon.com.


R&D partnerships: an approach to accelerate innovation

QOOT Cluster brought together Lebanese enterprises and SMEs, knowledge providers and support institutions to learn about joint R&D projects, shedding light on the economy within the current crisis situation. More than 60 professionals joined QOOT Cluster’s Zoom In & Learn webinar to discuss different initiatives, bringing together a collaborative approach in the agri-food sector.

QOOT Cluster's Crucial Role

Today, more than ever, QOOT Cluster's role is crucial in being the medium between the different stakeholders in the agri-food sector, and bringing together Academia, Research Centers, and the Private Sector to work and solve common challenges.

Nadine Khoury, President of QOOT Cluster and COO at Robinson Agri, emphasized the importance of the cluster in times of crisis: “When we first launched QOOT Cluster we had in mind two main goals : promoting Lebanon’s agri-food sector by encouraging innovation and sustainability, but also bringing Lebanese agri-food stakeholder together so we can work and develop. That is exactly what a cluster does, helping, supporting, and sharing."

Stressing on the importance of the agri-food sector in time of crisis, she added: “In addition to health concerns, we should consider the basic necessities such as water, electricity, fuel, Internet… and above all food. Our food security is by far the most critical, we should make sure that our communities are not disrupted by unforeseen events, people should not starve. So, now more than ever we are aware of the role that our cluster must play. It would be impossible to survive unless we collaborate and innovate. As we give tribute to doctors and nurses in hospitals fighting for the life of patients with COVID-19 virus, we should include food suppliers who despite the risk, are working daily to bring food to our plates.”

Industry-academic partnerships: an approach to accelerate innovation

The webinar combined speakers from the professionals and academia, to present and discuss the importance of collaborative strategy to overcome the actual situation in Lebanon. The speakers included Dr. Rabi Mohtar - Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences (FAFS) at the American University of Beirut, Antoine Abou Samra - Senior Business Consultant of the Euro Lebanese Center for Industrial Modernization (ELCIM) and the Centre for Innovation and Technology (CIT) at the Industrial Research Institute (IRI), and Huda Saigh - Program manager at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Dr. Rabi Mohtar discussed the importance of accelerating innovation through industry-academic partnerships. He insisted on the importance of having an integrated strategy to bring the sector forward, partnering the government, industry, and academia to accelerate innovations and bring the sector forward to reduce resource gaps.
Antoine Abou Samra presented how ELCIM has been providing to help the sector, they have been providing over 350 companies technical assistance, and 600 business assessment missions. ELCIM has been financing support program through the Innovation Voucher Program and ESSP Program.

Moreover, Berytech has partnered with ELCIM to mobilize academia and research institutions to work on commercializing Lebanese intellectual property for the benefit of different sectors and to advance the Knowledge Economy. The goal is to create opportunities for innovators through different pillars including valorizing Lebanese research to commercialization and industry advancement. Four grants of $25,000 each are available through the ACT Smart Innovation Hub for projects innovating in the agri-food or cleantech sector. Read more

Huda Saigh presented the technical assistance opportunities available through EBRD, as they are helping small and medium-sized businesses access the know-how they need to grow. She explained how they can help the agri-food accompanies to support them improve their decision-making, expand to new markets, qualify for new certifications, among others.

The interventions ended with a great exchange, where the different academics and professionals discussed the future steps to strengthen the collaboration between academia and the private sector.