World Food Day with Robinson Agri

On October 16th, World Food Day is celebrated to promote global awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and to highlight the need to ensure healthy diets for all.

To learn more about contributing to sustainable food production, WE4F interviewed Robinson Agri, a Lebanese company supported by our Middle East and North Africa Regional Innovation Hub. The company is managed by Nadine Khoury, the Chief Operating Officer of Robinson Agri, and her sister Roula Khoury, the Chief Financial Officer of Robinson Agri. Their company is a leading producer of greenhouses, PE pipes, grafted vegetables plants, and certified organic seedlings. They also provide turnkey agricultural and irrigation projects and other services in Lebanon and abroad.

How is Robinson Agri contributing to the 5 principles of sustainability for food and agriculture with your innovation? Could you give some examples?

Sustainability and social responsibility are an integral part of what we do at Robinson Agri. We try to align our activities with the 17 SDGs by:

  1. Empowering local farmers to increase their yield;
  2. Protecting Biodiversity and natural resources (specifically Water) + protecting environment (less CO2 emission – adopting renewable energy);
  3. Increasing awareness and encouraging responsible production (efficient performance of the growers) and consumption (awareness for end consumers clean and healthy produce); 
  4. Offering our employees a decent, pleasant long-term job with satisfying pay and conditions;
  5. Collaborating and forming partnerships with different stakeholders (suppliers, NGOs, clients…) and working closely with government and academia to promote and guarantee implementation of the SDGs.

5 key principles of sustainability for food and agriculture

  • Increase productivity, employment and value addition in food systems.
  • Protect and enhance natural resources.
  • Improve livelihoods and foster inclusive economic growth.
  • Enhance the resilience of people, communities and ecosystems.
  • Adapt governance to new challenges.

Do you consider yourself a pioneer for sharing your expertise with the community of agricultures in your country?

Ever since its establishment back in 1971, our company has been providing technical support to local growers. Our team regularly visits farmers in all regions we work in to provide advice and adequate solutions for any agriculture challenges.

We also organise many seminars and workshops on an annual basis to keep the agriculture communities up to date about innovations and new technologies in the agricultural domain.

Recently, we started collaborating with various NGOs to deliver different training sessions covering important agricultural topics such as irrigation, production, integrated crop management (ICM) and more. 

How is awareness part of your commitment to food safety?

As an agricultural input supplier, our engineers receive regular training to provide accurate, efficient solutions with minimal impact on the environment and the freshness of fruit and vegetable products. The products we provide (e.g., hybrid seeds) are produced by multinational manufacturers and are designed for environmentally friendly application as well as healthy produce.

Through awareness, we encourage growers to adopt good agricultural practices while avoiding harmful and contaminating protection agents/active ingredients. Recently, we started working with organisations to explain to our customers the importance of following the recommendation of different certifications to guarantee residue-free products and to apply to these certifications. 

We are also spreading awareness among consumers and end-users to encourage them to select clean produce and follow a healthy lifestyle by consuming safe, healthy fruits and vegetables.

What impact does Robinson Agri have on smallholder farmers?

Before the current economic crisis, Robinson Agri supported the small farmers financially through different programs like KAFALAT or by setting up scheduled payment schemes. Following the crisis, we are still partnering with NGOs to provide financial support for smallholder farmers. Yet, most importantly, we are introducing new vegetable varieties with favourable traits, thus improving yield and incomes. 

Also, we help farmers control and manage their farm or project, consequently reducing costs. Our intervention at the level of post-harvest is helping the growers reduce waste and expand the shelf-life of the produce. 

In addition, we are trying to support smallholder farmers throughout the chain by introducing them to buyers interested in special crops and varieties with better prices. 

We received technical assistance from the WE4F team to develop an end-user financing model in order to provide small holder farmers with payment facilities to purchase drip irrigation equipment.

What is the environmental impact that you value the most in your company?

We are pioneers in water solutions and we appreciate the importance of water so we always do our best to preserve this natural resource and to keep it clean. We are also working to apply integrated crop management to reduce crop protection agents, which is a direct contribution to a better environment.

How does enabling access to food translate in your current daily operations?

Robinson Agri focuses on innovation. This is a crucial aspect of agriculture if we hope to guarantee a sustainable food supply for our future world. Our company contributes to sustainable agricultural growth through technological progress, social innovation, and new business models. We are committed to developing the agricultural sector through more efficient use of land, labour and other inputs.