EcoFarm by ICARE

EcoFarm by ICARE

Let’s nurture minds of the Armenian youth in understanding and appreciating nature, and incubating agribusiness startups. That’s why a unique project of EcoFarm was founded by the International Center for Agribusiness Research and Education.

 

Armenians are innovative, creative and entrepreneurial. Over the past two decades tens of thousands young Armenians left the country in a search for better jobs and lives of better quality. Armenia has been losing brainpower from the generation of youth who are supposed to be the driving force of the country today and in the years to come. That’s why today we need to create more change-makers in Armenia and for Armenia.

Career in agriculture is probably the least what comes to the mind of youth in Armenia nowadays. Previously imports and exports of goods couldn’t be conducted smoothly due to the bureaucratic procedure and lack of transparency. You write a software code, you send it to the client via email, you receive the money on the virtual wallet. That used to be a no-hassle business.

Things are different when you want to engage in primary agriculture production or processing. Launching a local company would assume an array of paperwork. And if you wanted to import technology or inputs for your production and export the ready products, then things would have gotten much more complicated. Yet, there are now positive developments in the market structure with more room and freedom for small and medium enterprises to maneuver and capture opportunities.

“Oh no, no agriculture! a doctor, a lawyer, or at least a software developer is what will ensure a comfortable life for your family, my son” would say to their kid the Armenian parents. Our society does not perceive agriculture as a good career path, and that is probably true for many other societies. And why the Armenian parents would discourage their children from pursuing this career path, is because there are now more than 300 thousand farmers in the country, many of them hardly earning their living. Many depend on foreign remittances coming from their family members from all over the globe.

Can agriculture be highly profitable? That is a question asked even by countries with well-established agricultural sector. Agriculture constitutes around 18% of Armenian GDP. This may sound like a big number, compared to below 5% of agriculture contribution to GDP in many developed countries. Yet, it is high in Armenia, because other sectors of the economy are not as advanced as in developed countries. In addition, our agriculture system is greatly inefficient often due to a lack of management capacity. And way before we need new technologies in the sector, we need people who can efficiently utilize those technologies, and give freedom to their creativity and entrepreneurship spirit.

 

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ICARE was established in Armenia in 2005 by Texas A&M University to educate agribusiness managers equipped with up-to-date knowledge in management, marketing, finance, and last but not least soft skills, networking and communication. This institution matriculated around 700 graduates from its agribusiness and marketing, winemaking and wine business, greenhouses management, and other agribusiness-related programmes. All graduates find professional employment within only a few months after graduation. Being able to fully meet the industry needs for professionals, majority of the graduates stay and work in Armenia because they can ensure comfortable lives for themselves and their families. These graduates are among the change-makers of Armenia.

We see an increasing trend among youth, especially in the capital city of Yerevan, who visualize their every business idea through the prism of technology. So, we thought how ICARE can on one hand fulfill the greed for technology among youth, and on the other hand nurture their minds for environmentally conscious and profitable agriculture. ICARE team had four pillars for brainstorming – agriculture, environment, technology, business. And here it comes – EcoFarm! a hallmark for “Learn by Doing” agricultural technology and agribusiness incubation center, promoting environmentally conscious agriculture, healthy lifestyle, and nature appreciation. And where else could such a center be located if not in the outskirts of Yerevan, as the first offshoot with a potential to grow satellites around Armenia.

Next comes defining the structure and activities for the EcoFarm. Having in mind the four pillars, EcoFarm will provide agribusiness incubation opportunities for ICARE students and all other students and young professionals who are passionate about establishing their agribusiness start-ups. EcoFarm will also be an agribusiness incubator in Armenia! The agribusiness start-ups incubated at EcoFarm will incorporate components of high-tech farming, organic farming, or biodynamic farming.

For those who live in Yerevan it is impossible to find a place near the city for hobby farming after a hard week in the office, unless one has a relative in a nearby village. And if you are the lucky one with such an opportunity, there is a high chance you will be spending the weekend in a company of all your noisy relatives running around you and laying a table morning to evening. And this does not come without firm persuasion that you got really thin and you need to gain a few pounds by devouring tasty dolma, harissa, ghapama and all other amazing dishes that Armenian cuisine is so rich with. But all this gastronomy experience comes only if you are the lucky one to be able to have village relatives close enough to visit over the weekend. And farming? No way! They won’t let you do that dirty work! So, if you live and work in Yerevan, your opportunities for outdoor healthy lifestyle are limited to jogging in the city center or exercising in the balcony under scrutiny of the neighbors. EcoFarm will provide an opportunity for active farming work in only 10 minutes’ drive time from downtown Yerevan.

 

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A new word emerged recently – screen-time. This is the time a person spends every day working or playing on a computer or a phone, or interacting with any other gadget. And this is getting really a sensitive issue when we talk about kids. Kids who live in cities have way more screen-time hours than those who live in villages. To reduce the screen-time, we need to engage them in entertaining activities, ideally on a farm. Driving only 10 minutes from Yerevan and bringing your kids to a farm where they can interact with small animals, water their own lettuce plants, harvest their own melon, pick apricots or blueberries. Is there any better gift for a kid that a caring parent can make? EcoFarm will be exactly this facility!

We invite you to join the efforts and start this amazing project this year. Let’s create a hallmark for nurturing children’s minds to become conscious about nature and agriculture. Let’s embrace those entrepreneurial minds who want to establish their agribusiness startups. Let’s help students who want to learn by doing! Let’s make our nation healthier and happier. Because we are Armenians. Because we can. Together.

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