In a competitive market, it takes a lot of strength and determination to leave your stable job and jump into the health field in Egypt. A mere three years ago, trying to find kale, quinoa and chia seeds was like looking for extraterrestrial objects. The only way to get healthy products was to buy them from abroad, or forget that they exist. Today, what seems like a whole lifetime later we have Greek yogurt readily available, almond milk, local protein bars, local chia seeds and quinoa. While we can’t say having greens is new to Egypt, the new methods of healthy and organic farming, such as aquaponics and hydroponics, which have been introduced have given the market a wider variety of real clean greens. This didn’t happen overnight and many people took a leap of faith and put in effort to get us to where we are today. It’s time we meet the real faces behind some of the brands that are making Egypt healthier each passing day.
Amr Bassiouny & Adel El Shentenawy – Egyptian Hydrofarms
We talked to Amr El Bassiouny co-founder, who told us of his experience as an avid off-roader, a desert man, a survivalist, a martial artist, a musician who still has half the world left to explore with his backpack. Amr Bassiouny, went from working in the Ministry of Housing, to working as a research manager and then starting up a School of the Desert as a social project in Sinai. Bassiouny then decided to make a drastic career shift and dive into something that could absorb the instability of the revolution and so he began studying and teaching himself food production. Bassiouny then developed the hydroponic system over 9 months and things started to take off from there.
“Setting aside the social aspect, it was mostly due to the gap in the market both on the production and the supply side. There were no high quality greens in Egypt, and everybody was afraid to eat greens outside of their own homes,” says Bassiouny. Bassiouny saw the window of opportunity and realized that if somebody could create a product that was safe to eat and trusted by the people, then that would open up a whole new market in Egypt.
To ensure great quality and seasonality, Bassiouny and his partner Adel El-Shentenawy decided to use hydroponics farming to ensure that they could produce safe, high quality, year round produce all while avoiding the use of pesticides and contaminated Nile water. “The variety when it came to greens was very limited, so we focused on introducing new varieties, expanding the menu of lettuce from Baladi (romaine) and Kaputcha (iceberg) to include oakleaf, batavia and butterhead, then we introduced kale, mustard leaves and a whole range of new varieties that the market slowly learnt how to use and love in their kitchens.” These are the main reasons why we were able to penetrate the market quickly and achieve the success that we reached today.
Karim Seif El Nasr – ProTen
A 30 year old with an unparalleled passion for fitness, Karim Seif El Nasr has always been an advocate of sports, playing football, basketball and mixed martial arts. El Nasr practices weightlifting and CrossFit regularly and makes sure to stay active as much as he can. Having graduated from Canada with a Bachelor in Business Management, El Nasr moved back to Egypt and started work at a prestigious bank until he reached the level of Senior Credit Analyst of Corporate Banking.
“I remember in University when it was time to start thinking seriously about what I wanted to do after school (and sports); I really wanted to run my own business, although I had no solid ideas.” Recalls El Nasr. Four years into banking and he realized that his itch to start his own business was continually growing and it was time to start taking it seriously. At the same time, El Nasr had decided to start making his own bars at home to include as part of his healthy lifestyle. Months passed by until he realized how passionate he was about this and he decided to turn it into a part time, home – based business. “After almost a year, I decided that this was my chance to do what I have always felt I needed to do! The bar industry in Egypt was extremely new and I had a product with potential. I had to take a leap of faith and try to turn this health product into the business I’ve always wanted to run.”
Faris Farrag – Bustan aquaponics
Faris Farrag worked with startups in London and Boston. Prior to his work in startups, Farrag worked in finance in New York and London for 10 years. He received his BA, in Economics from University of Southern California, Los Angeles and MBA in a joint program between Warwick University, UK and Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden.
Inspired by the events shaping Egypt’s January 25th Revolution intertwined with his love for fishing and farming, Farrag developed a vision to better feed Egypt’s growing population. Farrag followed his passion and established Bustan Aquaponics in 2011. The idea behind it was to build a controlled and sustainable system that was 100% sourced and manufactured in Egypt and would address agriculture issues facing desert areas.