Where are all the agri-startups at?

Jojo Puthuparampil is a business news writer for Inc. Arabia.

Lebanese venture capital fund Berytech has launched Agrytech, a smart agri-food tech hub.

The program is jointly funded by the Embassy of the Netherlands. While The Netherlands government has provided 90% of the required funds or €2.8 million ($3 million), Bertytech will provide the remaining 10% or $300,000.

The program aims to target agro-engineering, agricultural, and ICT university graduates who wish to come up with tech innovations that challenge food security and water shortages in the agriculture sector.

It is also looking for those trying to help evolve practices across the agricultural value chain.

“We aim to widen agricultural and food production industries,” said Ramy Boujawdeh, deputy general manager at Berytech.

“Many graduates are unable to find work but have good tech ideas. They need support in nurturing them. We have provided finance from a larger fund in support of economic development, especially the agriculture sector and water subsector,”  said Marc Zeenny, commercial attaché at the Dutch Embassy.

Agrytech will translate agricultural innovation into commercial opportunities for businesses, and adhere to international standards and regulations, according to Boujawdeh.

A list of 30 startups comprising teams of two to three people will be chosen from online applications for the initial two-month program.

Each startup will receive $3,300, to help reach a minimum viable product (MVP) stage for validation purposes.

Besides, startups will have access to a Fab Lab, a digital fabrication factory.

A shortlist of 15 companies will receive a $16,000 investment and enroll into a four-month accelerator program that provides business support including hosting, development, and mentorship, as well as master class access.

Eight companies will be finally chosen for a six-month program. Each will receive an additional $22,000 in further investment that the startup will have to match.

The startups will be sent to Europe to meet with experts and to test their products for advanced development.

The program is open to Lebanese graduates, as well as resident Syrians and Palestinians.

Berytech has been active in Lebanon’s innovation space all of 2016.

In November, Berytech invested in Loop, a local operator of electric scooters. The startup will use the funds for running scooter trials before a rollout, which is expected before summer 2017.

Loop is licensed by Vancouver-based LOOPShare.

In October, Berytech exited fintech firm PayPlug, radio-frequency identification (RFID) company Active Identity and online food recipe firm, Cook & Eat Lebanese.

An initiative of the University of Saint Joseph, Berytech Foundation is a local incubator, accelerator, and business development center.

In July, Berytech’s venture arm, Insure and Match Capital (IM Capital), launched a Seeders Masterclass for Business Angels.

The $300,000 program will have 25 different angel investors participate with $15,000 each during the first year. The program will run in collaboration with Switzerland’s early-stage investing platform Go Beyond.

Founded in 2008, Berytech has so far invested in 15 Lebanese ventures focusing on technology. Its investment tickets range from $100,000 to $1,200,000.