28 Sep 2018
Beirut, Lebanon
Organic Food and Agriculture

Wissam Mansour and his family have been growing and harvesting the benefits of mushrooms for many years in Lebanon. And to keep up with the pursuit for more healthy options, they started their own market selling specialty mushrooms through his initiative, Lili’s Farm. “We [harbored] essential skills for converting existing rural and urban spaces into incubation and fruiting environments, using custom-made climate controls and automation systems as well as locally-sourced [ingredients] to produce organic specialty mushrooms,” Mansour says.

To to be in line with the organic sourcing of mushroom, Lili’s Farm does not import any raw materials but upcycles agricultural byproducts as well as recycling waste into mushroom growing substrates. “We wanted to develop a project flexible and adaptable to various production prototypes by simply tweaking controls or changing growing substrate and conditions while contributing to leave a positive impact [on] our community,” Mansour expounds. “Lastly, buying local reduces CO2 emissions from the  transport of imported produce.”

While the project strives to control environmental factors and maintain optimal growing conditions, there are other phases of the project such as planting, harvesting, packaging, and delivery that can help sustain the environment along with the community through offering job opportunities.

According to Mansour, the family-run project is scalable in terms of having bigger growing chambers that would increase production and yield, and also in terms of the product varieties that it could offer. “It will be necessary to hire full-time staff for all the phases previously mentioned, in contrast with 1 part-time farmer employed currently,” Mansour explains. “Also, these growing rooms will take advantage of the stable underground temperature & humid environment to minimize the need for electricity to generate heat & cool growing spaces,” he adds.

Lili’s Farm was part of the SwitchMed Business Model Development training, in 2017, where Mansour worked on framing his green business canvas. “I started my incubation period in April 2018. Maya Karkour from Eco-Consulting and Antoine Karam from Proquale are mentoring me to develop a comprehensive business plan, enhancing my managerial and operational approaches and improving the circularity of my business,” Mansour says.

Besides that, the SwitchMed technical assistance helps Mansour and his farm through the program’s own technical experts, Zeina Ajami and Ahmad Khattab. They both help Mansour formulate his own services to upgrade a productive infrastructure and sustainable production lines. Another problem that the SwitchMed incubation program help address is land scarcity. This comes through building earth-sheltered growing rooms and the SwitchMed program would help with the designing and financing of a prototype.

“I also benefited from SwitchMed access to finance activities taking part of a specific training programme, and then connecting me to a number of investors and donors in Beirut, to pitch my business idea and receive feedback,” Mansour adds.

 

Photos: Eberhard Grossgasteiger and Thomas Millot on Unsplash.

Lili's Farm Organic Food & Agriculture
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