Skincare sisters: Palestinian duo seek to harness nature’s power 

Toulane Essentials’ products are made with natural oils.
Updated 12 August 2019

Skincare sisters: Palestinian duo seek to harness nature’s power 

  • Eman Al-Sherif founded Toulane Essentials with the help of her sister, social media influencer Dina Al-Sherif
  • Products were inspired by their grandparents’ use of natural oils

DUBAI: The healing and hydrating powers of nature are at the heart of Toulane Essentials. 

Inspired by her grandparents’ use of natural oils, Eman Al-Sherif, founder of the UAE-based skincare label, launched her brand with the help of her sister, the social media influencer Dina Al-Sherif, in 2018. 

Being Palestinian, Eman said she grew up learning to take care of her skin. “In our family, we always used to use the Nabulsi soap that is made of olive oil on our bodies and hair,” she added. 

Her sensitive skin was her motive to start making her own skincare mixes at home. Eman then wanted to share her recipes with the world. 

The entrepreneur wanted everyone to feel good about their own skin. “Everyone has natural flaws, that’s normal. But nowadays, with social media, everyone is affected (by) perfection in the beauty industry.”

According to Eman, Toulane Essentials aspires to teach everyone about self-acceptance along with the importance of using skincare products. “It is fine to have natural flaws. We all do. But we need to actually work on improving them,” she said. 

Eman also said the brand, with ingredients imported from countries such as the United States, Turkey and France, addresses both medical concerns and beauty issues. “Our products can be used before makeup in a cosmetic way, and at the same time our products can actually treat minor skin problems like scars, irritation and redness,” she explained. 

Eman started working on her first product, the Rose Elixir, in 2016. “This beauty balm can be used on any dry area. It is good (for) reducing under-eye dark circles.” It can also be used as a lip balm and to soften nail cuticles. 

With no fragrances, preservatives or artificial chemicals, the brand has formulated a fusion of natural oils to benefit all skin types. 

Toulane Essentials is also planning to launch a beard oil to encourage more men to use its products.

Two engineers help fight Lebanese farming foe

Updated 19 August 2019

Two engineers help fight Lebanese farming foe

  • Early-warning system lets farmers know when to protect their crops from fruit flies
  • Mobile app tells them the best time to spray pesticides to halt their advance

DUBAI: An award-winning startup led by two female Lebanese engineers has created an automated early-warning system that allows Middle East farmers to protect their crops against the Mediterranean fruit fly, one of the world’s most destructive pests.

Fruit flies can devastate entire harvests and have infested over 300 types of vegetables, fruits and nuts globally, causing financial ruin to countless farmers in the Arab world.

However, an ingenious system designed by Nisrine El Turky, a computer engineer and university professor, and Christina Chaccour, an electrical engineer, will tell farmers via text messages and mobile app of the best time to spray pesticides to halt the pests’ advance.

“Many Lebanese farmers weren’t able to export apples because the quality of their produce wasn’t good enough,” said El Turky, co-founder of IO Tree.

“So many I met were desperate to sell a crate of apples for $2 (SR7.50), which is nothing. I wanted to help the sector by better integrating technology.”

Farmers were found spraying too much pesticide to try to kill fruit flies. (Shutterstock)

She began by investigating the difficulties that farmers faced, attending workshops and seminars, and visiting farms. She found the main problem was that farmers were spraying too much pesticide to try to kill fruit flies.

“I found a way that could reduce the use of pesticides and increase production.”

El Turky began working on the IO Tree concept in February 2018 and swiftly built a working prototype, which she showed to Chaccour, who promptly joined the company as a co-founder.

IO Tree’s technology is being tested on farms in Lebanon and the Netherlands. There are two prototype machines — one for indoor use and another for outdoor. The machines can be placed in an orchard, field or greenhouse.

“We need to ensure that the prototype functions in all conditions. Outdoors, there is sun, dust, rain and other weather factors that could disrupt its operation,” said El Turky, who still works up to 10 hours a week as a lecturer at Lebanon’s Notre Dame University.

Using machine learning and artificial intelligence, the machine’s sensors monitor indicators such as temperature and moisture, as well as studying plant stress.

The system can detect and identify pests, providing data on the likely scale of an imminent pest invasion and the best action the farmer should take to combat it. Information is conveyed to the farmer via IO Tree’s app.

“If you’re using pesticides, our app will tell you the best pesticide to use to tackle that problem, the quantity you need and when to spray.”

IO Tree’s sensors use machine learning to measure plant stress. (Supplied photo)

EL Turky said her technology had shown over 90 percent accuracy in identifying medflies.

“Machine learning means that every day the system becomes more accurate,” she said.

“We’re also working on identifying other pests, but medfly is our main target. Once medflies arrive at a farm, they will eat everything.”

IO Tree will enable farmers to use fewer pesticides, reducing environmental damage, while produce will be in better condition and can command a higher sales price.

“By using fewer pesticides, farmers will be better able to preserve biodiversity: Spraying kills a lot more insects than just pests,” she said. IO Tree has initially targeted all types of fruit trees, plus tomatoes and cucumbers, and the product will be launched commercially in September.

“We’re aiming at farmers directly,” said El Turky.

IO Tree’s services will be sold via subscription. After a farmer signs up for one year initially, the company will install its machines at the farm. The number of machines required per acre depends on crop type, crop yield, land topography and other factors.

The company’s initial target market is the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, though it also plans to expand to Europe and eventually worldwide.

The product’s potential has helped IO Tree win a string of startup competitions. It was selected to represent Lebanon GSVC 2019 (Global Social Venture Competition) at the University of California, Berkeley.

IO Tree also joined Lebanon’s Agrytech accelerator, which provided $44,000 in funding, and schooled the fledgling entrepreneurs in how to create and manage a startup.


• The Middle East Exchange is one of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Global Initiatives that was launched to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai in the field of humanitarian and global development, to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. The initiative offers the press a series of articles on issues affecting Arab societies.