Transdairy Living Lab Focus Group Series: Enabling Innovation in the Agrifood & Dairy Sectors in Lebanon

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Berytech and ELCIM at the Industrial Research Institute (IRI), under the EU-funded Transdairy project, held the 5th and 6th Focus Group Series in April 2022 in the Transdairy Living Lab.  

The focus groups aimed at bringing together experts, entrepreneurs, researchers, public authorities, and industrialists in the field of the Dairy Value Chain to discuss existing as well as potential partnerships among these stakeholders, and how they can integrate bio/nano and ICT technologies to foster innovation in and develop the Dairy Value Chain in Lebanon.  

The Transdairy 5th and 6th Focus Group Discussions took place on the 26th of April 2022 in the Transdairy Living Lab at Berytech Mar Roukoz premises.  


Key Outputs  

The fifth focus group discussed the ways of leveraging the partnership between academia, industry, and the public sector to enable tech transfer and grow bio/nano innovation in the dairy sector.  

The focus group tackled the minimal collaboration between industries and academia that has started but has not reached its full potential. There is a direct relationship between offer and demand which is mediocre but worsened due to the aggravating economic situation. This relationship should be addressed and strengthened, but would also reach its full potential when it involves the state.  

Another point is the orientation needed by farmers, industries, and research institutes that brings to their attention more information on the needs and the resources available to meet those needs. They need numbers and data that tell them what is currently happening in the country to build the feasibility of their products (i.e.:  information about breeds, type of cheeses produced, the diseases, how the farmers can be supported, what are the funding opportunities offered, etc.)  

Farmers are not notified about the support opportunities and the support offered by the Ministry of Agriculture. The information on the website of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) is outdated, and they don’t have any data.  

In the meantime, ministries need to collaborate more with experts to set out a plan and implement it. The main issue is policymaking. The MoA is intervening more on the level of marketing rather than farming and production. It is supporting farmers and entrepreneurs with marketing their products by giving them credibility and contributing to label-related decisions.   

On another note, the group discussed how the spaces provided for wheat farming will never allow the country to be self-sufficient. A big part of the problem is the lack of marginalized land exploitation. These lands can be rehabilitated and equipped for cultivation. The marginal water can also be used after being treated. 

Trust should be rebuilt among governmental and non-governmental organizations. Governmental organizations should be aware of projects that are happening on the ground by non-governmental entities. However, the issue is that the state is almost absent, and it cannot be relied on. A solution would be to work with the Chamber of Commerce which is semi-private. 

Researchers should try and shift their research from purely academic to applied i.e. try to cover where there is a lack of information and transfer that knowledge to farmers and industries. Academic institutes and industries can sort out a symbiotic deal since the latter need the labs to test their products, and the academia needs machines for application. In the meantime, University students need practical experience and market exposure instead of just relying on theory.  

The Ministry of Agriculture is working on a register of farmers, but there is a gap in how to promote the application and make it accessible to the farmers. 

Finally, all stakeholders have to put their efforts together to help the farmer by providing training, know-how, and means, then the value chain would be broken at one of its pillars.  

The sixth focus group tackled CT technology transfer to leverage innovation and sustainability in the agrifood sector.  

The focus group discussed how farmers should be trained and introduced to new technologies for them to see how they can be beneficial and increase efficiency; since the main problem was the lack of adoption and understanding of the new technology at the farmer’s level because they are only used to familiar methods. Therefore, by practicing technology and giving live demonstrations, there is a higher probability that the farmer would be convinced. Moreover, these consultancies are given for free by certain entities in Lebanon.  

Additionally, the farmer is not introduced to the importance of information gathering and the know-how. An application was developed based on the problem of the farmers and it can be used in Lebanon. There is a gap of awareness between stakeholders. 

The Ministry of Agriculture should push for ICT integration in the farming industry and monitor it. Data about farms and the farmers should be collected and the latter should be invited to these talks to bridge the gap with other stakeholders.  

Finally, Entrepreneurs and ICT innovators should be guided to make sure that their ideas are feasible at the industry level.  

The main outcome is to involve medium and small producers in the talks starting with a common database, understanding the needs, and focusing on these Small – Medium producers.  

Next Steps 

Speakers will fill out a “Solution Development Form” in which they will propose a solution to a current problem faced by actors in the Dairy Value Chain in Lebanon and elaborate on how and who ought to implement it. These responses will be collected, studied, and analyzed for future use in future collaborations, training, and programs. Speakers will also receive a 200 € voucher as compensation for their attendance and input.  

In addition, they will also have access to the TRANSDAIRY regional online collaborative platform which features a database of Dairy Value Chain regional demand and offer and allows communication and networking among regional innovators, suppliers, partners, prospective clients, etc.  


About Transdairy  

Transdairy is a project funded by the European Union under the ENI CBC Med Program to grow innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities in the Dairy Value Chain and empower this ecosystem in the Mediterranean. The project will use the open innovation and living lab methodology to bring stakeholders together including researchers, industry players, SMEs, representatives from the public sector, and entrepreneurs, to exchange best practices, collaborate, and implement Key Enabling Technologies and solutions applied to the Dairy Value Chain.   

Throughout this project, Berytech and ELCIM at Industrial Research Institute (IRI) will be facilitating the setup of Innovation Living Labs, supporting the development and financing of innovation and entrepreneurship projects, and enabling matchmaking and collaboration opportunities between different stakeholders in the Dairy Value Chain in Lebanon and the Mediterranean  

More info about Transdairy is available here.  

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This project has been funded with the support of the ENI CBC MED Programme of the European Union. This communication reflects the views only of the authors, and neither the European Commission nor the ENI CBC MED programme can be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


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