Innovative students benefiting the community win Aana Prizes in Agribusiness

Safa Jafari Safa, Office of Communications, ss152@aub.edu.lb​​
The AUB Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences (FAFS) held its fourth ceremony for the Aana Prizes in Agribusiness. The annual prize recognizes outstanding achievement by agribusiness students at AUB in the areas of benefit to community and innovation.

​Established in 2014, the aim of the Aana Prizes is to draw attention to the importance and promise of agribusiness in Lebanon and the wider Middle East and Africa region. Now extended beyond its initial three years, the cash-award program is supported by Mr. Carlos Eddé, and managed and implemented by the Agribusiness Program at the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, with the support of the FAFS Dean’s Office.

Five student teams from the BS in agribusiness degree program competed based on the projects they developed as part of their agribusiness final year project. Students presented their final year projects through posters that were exhibited at the FAFS courtyard. Experts in the field from various NGOs, faculty members, interested students, alumni, and the participating students’ family and friends had the opportunity to learn about the various projects as well as ask questions and advise the students of their own recommendations. A committee of expert jury members debriefed the students and noted their impressions before proceeding to the awarding ceremony that followed. 

“Many of you will have the opportunity to seek private sector support for your ideas so that you can take it one step further not only in creating the idea but also in implementing it,” FAFS Dean Rabi Mohtar told the competing students. “Thank you for getting us closer to becoming job creators, not job seekers.”

Dr. Ali Chalak who led the program and award event at FAFS introduced the jury members, thanked all participants in making the award a success, and disseminated certificates of participation to all students. Next was the award distribution.

Winners of the Aana Prize for Benefit to the Community were Natalia El Hariri, Reem El Tayech, Hiba Salameh for the AgriBridge project. AgriBridge proposes a website and mobile application directory and e-marketing platform that connects all stakeholders in the agriculture and agro-food sectors in Lebanon.  Yolla Sarieddine, deputy general manager of Kafalat, presented the award and spoke of the selection process and criteria.

The Aana Prize for Innovation in Agribusiness went out to Tarek Al Ghadban, Ali Chamseddine, and Ayman Makarim for their project, AquaNova, a start-up business project offering simple, mini hydroponic systems that can be used by individuals to grow a wide variety of leafy vegetables.

“We are aware of the challenges that come in a sector like the agriculture sector in Lebanon and the region, but with challenges comes opportunity and as graduates of agribusiness there is a lot of opportunity for you to create your own jobs and creative solutions for others. The sector needs people like you,” said Ramy Boujawdeh, deputy general manager of Berytech and a member of the prize selection committee.

This year, a “students’ choice award,” was added to the list of Aana prizes, allowing current AUB students to select their preferred business plan through mobile applications during the poster presentation session. Omar Bahlawan, president of the Food Science, Agriculture, and Agribusiness Student Society at FAFS, explained the goals of the award as a mechanism to engage students to review the work of participants as well as develop their own innovative ideas in the agribusiness sector. Based on the voting, the award was presented to AgriBridge.

“This is the first time that I participate in such a competition and we won two prizes!” said Hiba Salameh, agribusiness senior and member of the AgriBridge team. “Regardless of whether we won or not, it was a good experience to stand in front of different jury members from different backgrounds and showcase what we have been working on all semester. It has been a great experience and wonderful opportunity, I advise all students to participate in every single competition because it’s certainly worth it.”

Three other competing projects also engaged in discussions and networking with agribusiness experts at the event: Aphrod’el, an innovative concept that caters to young women’s skin problems through organic produce; the Elixir Oils project, which offers a durable vaporizer and essential oils that will be locally extracted at a partner production facility in Saida to cover local market needs with competitive and profitable prices; and Know What You Eat!, a mobile application that allows consumers to scan food products’ barcode to learn about advantages and disadvantages for their personal medical conditions, guiding them with their food diets.