Agri-Food Innovation Days (AFID) 2023, organized by Berytech in partnership with QOOT Cluster, marked another successful edition of the annual event. With the support of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the ENI CBC MED program, and the Italian Trade Agency (ITA), AFID gathered agrifood leaders, corporates, entrepreneurs, startups, investors, researchers, and visionaries under one roof. This year’s event, held on May 24 and 25, showcased the immense potential of agrifood innovation. QOOT Cluster, a key partner in AFID2023, played a pivotal role in driving the success of the event and solidifying its position as a leader in the agrifood innovation field.
AFID2023 witnessed an impressive turnout, with over 2500 attendees, including 30+ local and international speakers, 15+ exhibiting partners, and more than 60 innovative startups and SMEs. These numbers reflect the growing interest and engagement within the agrifood industry, further highlighting the significance of QOOT Cluster’s contributions to the event.
QOOT Cluster’s Active Presence at AFID
QOOT Cluster actively participated in AFID 2023, demonstrating their commitment to promoting collaboration, innovation, and growth within the agrifood sector. Their contributions throughout the event showcased their expertise and positioned them as a vital player in the industry.
Business Linkages and Matchmaking
One of the key highlights of QOOT Cluster’s involvement was the facilitation of matchmaking sessions. QOOT Cluster brought in 11 buyers representing international markets, and 2 leaders in the local market, enabling their members to explore potential export and distribution deals. This initiative aimed to connect startups and SMEs with valuable opportunities for growth and expansion.
Insights on Accessing New Markets
QOOT Cluster organized a panel discussion titled ‘Insights on Accessing New Markets’ moderated by Rima Saad Azar, Partner and General Manager at Sea Sky Services SARL & UK LTD, the panel featured industry experts such as Hassan Ezzeldine, Executive Chairman at Gray Mackenzie Retail Lebanon, Sven John Van De Wynkele, Managing Partner at Libons, Sally El Armaly Yacoub, Head of Food and Beverage at Fattal Group, and Hania Chahal, Business Export Coach at CBI. This panel provided valuable insights and strategies for businesses looking to expand into new markets, empowering attendees with actionable knowledge.
Innovation Inspiration Speeches
Two inspiring speeches showcased the impact of agrifood innovation and the role played by QOOT Cluster members. Rimane Aziz, co-founder and factory director at Agrofitt SAL, shared her journey of innovation in side stream valorisation, leading to the creation of Kwikeez, a solution to the apple crisis in Lebanon. Aziz collaborated with the University of Saint Joseph and QOOT Cluster to develop a patented machine and process that improved dried apple snacks, preserving nutritional value and enhancing taste and crunchiness. Mario Mard, co-founder of NatBio, also shared his story of innovating in the wheat value chain, resulting in organic, fresh, and wholesome bread. Both Agrofitt SAL and NatBio are members of QOOT Cluster, further emphasizing the cluster’s role in fostering innovation and growth.
Lebanon Export Academy Graduation Ceremony
Under the management of QOOT Cluster and Berytech, the Lebanon Export Academy (LEA) graduated its second and third cohort during AFID 2023. This academy, the first of its kind in Lebanon, equips Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), cooperatives, and social enterprises with the necessary knowledge and skills to scale up their operations and enhance their export readiness. The graduation ceremony, attended by notable dignitaries, underscored QOOT Cluster’s commitment to supporting the growth and internationalization of agrifood businesses in Lebanon.
Innovation through Clustering
QOOT Cluster organized a panel discussion on ‘Innovation through Clustering’ moderated by Roger Van Hoesel, Managing Partner at Ecosystem Navigators. The panel featured prominent figures such as Nadine El Khoury, COO of Robinson Agri and QOOT Cluster President, Marc Beyrouthy, CEO of Nature by Marc Beyrouthy, Christian Kamel, Project Director at BIEEL, and Maxence Duault, General Director at ESA Business School. The panelists highlighted the power of collaboration and clustering in accelerating the achievement of goals within the agrifood sector. Maxence Duault emphasized the potential of clusters to expedite growth, while Nadine El Khoury expressed satisfaction with the increasing number of students attending AFID, indicating the successful dissemination of their message.
The Agrifood Innovation Award: Celebrating Breakthroughs in Agrifood Excellence
The pinnacle of AFID 2023 was the highly anticipated Agrifood Innovation Award, a prestigious recognition bestowed upon groundbreaking innovations within the Lebanese agrifood sector. Under the patronage of H.E. George Boujikian, Minister of Industry of Lebanon, this award highlighted the remarkable achievements of agrifood manufacturers and their invaluable contributions to the industry. It was during this momentous occasion that QOOT Cluster further solidified its authority as a trailblazer in agrifood innovation.
The opening speech by H.E. Hans Peter van der Woude, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Netherlands to Lebanon, set the stage for an evening filled with anticipation and celebration. His words reverberated with the spirit of innovation and collaboration that defines QOOT Cluster’s vision.
Dr. Marc Bou Zeidan, QOOT Cluster manager, took center stage and delivered an energetic presentation, introducing the concept and details of the award. His enthusiasm was contagious, igniting the room with a shared sense of admiration for the incredible accomplishments of the participating companies.
Amidst great excitement, winners were announced across six distinguished categories, each representing a specific area of agrifood excellence. The victors stood as shining examples of innovation, quality, and impact. The winning products and companies for each category were as follows:
- Alcoholic Beverage Category: Zaatar Liqueur by The Good Thymes
- Baked Goods & Snacks Category: The Original Hummus Bar by Grapeful
- Health & Wellbeing Products Category: Kids Bites by Bazco Group – Raw Bites
- Non-alcoholic Beverage Products Category: Tearapy Functional Tea by Triana
- Pantry Products Category: Del Libano Lasagna by Del Libano S.A.L.
- Refrigerated & Chilled Products Category: Mushrooms Ravioli by Gudtolli
The jury, comprised of experts in the field, dedicated their time and expertise to meticulously assess and shortlist the remarkable products. Their invaluable contributions and discerning judgments played a pivotal role in determining the winners. Their collective expertise and dedication ensured a fair and rigorous evaluation process, adding prestige and credibility to the Agrifood Innovation Award at AFID 2023.
The partners who made the award possible are the American University of Beirut Laboratories for the Environment, Agriculture, and Food, the Industrial Research Institute, Gray Mackenzie, Spinneys, and Fattal. Their generous support in recognizing and empowering the ingenuity of Lebanese agrifood innovators enriched the Award.
Agri-Food Innovation Days 2023 served as a platform to showcase the transformative power of agrifood innovation, and QOOT Cluster’s pivotal role in the event solidified its authority in the agrifood industry. Through its matchmaking sessions, panel discussions, inspirational speeches, and support for the Lebanon Export Academy, QOOT Cluster demonstrated its commitment to fostering collaboration, knowledge sharing, and growth within the sector. AFID2023 celebrated the achievements of agrifood innovators and paved the way for future advancements in the field, with QOOT Cluster at the forefront of driving progress and excellence in the agrifood industry.