The year 2020 has been an eventful year, but not in a good sense. So, how did we make it to June?
1- Box? What box?
During exceptional times, thinking outside the box becomes an essential adaptation mechanism in problem solving. This is definitely not the time to resort to the usual solutions; we must see opportunity at every twist and transform obstacles into opportunities.
2- We’re in this together
In times of social distancing, let us not forget that we are social beings. We can still ask others for help and, most importantly, we can respond to others in need of help. Following strict guidelines in times of crisis can often render us robotic; taking a minute to connect with fellow colleagues, farmers or the laborers we deal with on a daily basis is also part of the job.
3- Follow my lead
Taking the lead is not only just about being proactive and leading a team. It is also about what happens in the shadows. It calls on us to remain level-headed while delivering professionally.
4- No, time did not stop
It might seem like the world has stopped in its tracks and everything is frozen. It is in these exact moments that one should double down on time management, making use of the tools at hand, be it technology, creativity, or multitasking, in order to ensure work efficiency, productivity, and quality.
5- The path of least resistance
It is what it is; we are here right now. There is no point in dwelling on the past, where things were done in a more familiar way. The faster you adapt to the new reality, the faster you will be able to assess the obstacles and put a plan in place and execute it while focusing on the future and embracing uncertainty.
With that mindset, and by following the guidelines above, we were successful in meeting the deadlines of crop cycles, field days, and variety launches with as little disruption as possible.
Transporting seedlings across roadblocks during the revolution, social distancing, working from home, and managing even-odd circulation measures, nothing stood in our way.
On the bright side, we created a new type of field day: human-centered, socially distant and personalized to the specific needs of each visitor group. And against all odds, we were able to launch new varieties.
This is how we made it to June.
This year and despite the tough conditions that our country is passing through, Debbane Freres have decided to organize open day events in Ammiq Trial Station on the 20th and 21st of August 2020. With the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in Lebanon and all over the world, the decision was not easy, but Debbane team supported by the management was dedicated to make sure the event took place with two main objectives in mind: Staying in contact with main customers and insisting on providing new varieties to the market for the upcoming years. All this while respecting safety guidelines to avoid contamination, and thankfully, none were present. The commercial team lead by Area managers, made sure to select target guests concerned with the successful varieties in Ammiq, chosen ahead of time by the Seeds Department in coordination with the technical department. The total number of invitees was 31, including 8 nursery owners, 2 dealers, 20 key farmers in addition to one supplier. Upon arrival, all attendees were provided with a gift bag containing needed material in addition to a face mask and hand sanitizer in order to be used during the day. Farmers were taken directly to the gathering area which had the display that contained all the interesting varieties to be viewed, Debbane team were briefed with all the information needed to describe the selected varieties and each engineer have taken the responsibility to lead his guests. The farm or field tour was focused on bringing the farmers to the varieties selected and which have showed good results, in each plot blue attention signs were installed to grab the attention of the guests, engineers responsible took care of this and farmers were taken directly to the varieties of interest in order to have a look on them, take photos, pick some fruits and even taste them The total number of varieties tested from all crops was 347 and 31 varieties were selected, below is the selection from each crop including the commercial varieties: OF-Tomato: New selection: 4 varieties / Commercial: 777, Meyameya, Prince, Waadia GH-Cucumber: Commercial: Rani Melon: New selection: 3 varieties / Commercial: Samar, Maestro Watermelon: New selection: 5 varieties / Commercial: Bolt, Rosalina Onion: New selection: 5 varieties Sweetcorn: Commercial: Nour, Chase, Messenger Squash: Commercial: Primo, Mared As a conclusion, we have seen a lot of interest from farmers on the commercial and on the new varieties that were selected and it was clear that farmers are searching and are in need for having new varieties from almost all crops despite the hard situation that they are facing, for them agriculture is a passion. This event during this hard period of time have proved that Debbane Freres will always do its best to meet farmers’ needs and will always stand beside them during hard times.
On June 29, DF client, Mr. Issam Habre and his brothers, welcomed the Minister of Agriculture, the General Manager at the Ministry of Agriculture, and MP Cezar Abi Khalil for a field visit to some of DF’s Turnkey projects in Bhamdoun, Mount Lebanon. The farm is divided into 3 projects: Plastic-covered table grapes, strawberry mountain hydroponic greenhouse, and net-covered cherries. The projects were planned by the Crops Department, implemented by the Equipment Department, and followed up on by the Crops Department and Zouk branch. All 3 projects have thus far shown good success, as the grapes are in full seedless production while the strawberries have yielded high profit, during the execution year and in the ones that followed. The cherries are expected to go into full production next year (Year 3). The Minister stated: “We stand today in the middle of the vineyards, in the middle of a bankrupt country, watching the private sector and the youth rise through the ashes of a collapsed economy and create opportunities. Today, we are witnessing the results of a success story”. For his part, MP Abi Khalil said: “As the MP elected to represent this area, I encourage farmers and the youth to go ahead and replicate this success story. We also call on the government to grant low interest loans and subsidize such projects.” DF continues to strive in providing its farmers with the agricultural solutions they need for their own welfare. The projects are meticulously executed, with a great deal of tailoring and customization, to meet the specific needs of every area and location.
On the 26th June, the Crops Department held a field day and a seminar on table grape projects in Lebanon. Hosh Sneid is a 3-year-old state-of-the-art vineyard, covered in plastic tents, to plan the production for the next few years and delay the yearly seasons. The tents aim to protect the grapes against weather hazards such as hail-frost and sun burns. The solid structures, executed by the Irrigation & Equipment Department, were able to withstand days of winds, snow and hail. As a result, the outcome of grape varieties has turned out to be very satisfactory, and even exceeded expectations in some cases. The management expressed its conviction that “with the current economic conditions, the need for export has dramatically increased. Out of all fruits, Lebanese grapes remain the highest in demand”. The Management’s strategic plan consists of promoting, investing in, and developing export-geared businesses, and grapes seem to be topping the list of strategic export crops. It is worth noting that the anticipated tonnage and quality are closely linked to the DF teams’ efforts. To this end, Production Manager, Eng. Nohad, has put in place an Intergrated Pest Management (IPM) system, as well as good cultural practices. The field visit was followed by a seminar & QA session at the Chtaura Branch.
In its continuous effort to provide solutions for farmers, Debbane Team took it upon itself to ensure that those solutions are “green” and do not leave any residue that might cause danger on the environment and on human health. Starting there, the first challenge was to enrich the company’s portfolio with products that are, at the same time, efficient, eco-friendly, and profitable. Fortunately, after several years of trials and development, and with the efforts of many who believed in this approach, Debbane was able to secure a decent range of biologically certified products that not only can compete on an organic farming level, but also with conventional products that are used nowadays by farmers. So far, the main products cover the following categories: Biostimulants, Insecticides, Soil Fumigants, Organic Soil Amendments, Fungicides, and Nematicides. However, this is only the beginning, as the next step will be to merge all of these products with other available solutions, such as bait traps and bumble bees’ pollinators, as well as the technical expertise of the team on the ground, into an Integrated Crop Management (ICM) program, which will ensure a holistic approach for farms and help farmers optimize their input and produce high quality fruits and vegetables.