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Partner Profile – The International Center for Agribusiness Research and Education (ICARE)


Armenia has a food and wine heritage most countries can only envy. With fertile valleys perfect for vineyards, the country is home to one of the oldest wine production cave ever uncovered by archeologists. UNESCO recognizes lavash, the country’s beloved stone oven-baked bread, as a cultural treasure. Yet despite this deep cultural connection to food and wine, the country’s agribusiness sector is not reaching its production and export potential.

To boost its food and agricultural sectors, Armenia needs more trained agribusiness professionals to stimulate economic growth. CIRED’s InnovATE/Armenia project, funded by USAID/Armenia, partners with the International Center for Agribusiness Research and Education (ICARE), a non-profit foundation in Armenia,  to increase the knowledge and capacities Armenia needs to increase the productivity of its food and agribusiness sectors. With help from CIRED and other U.S. partners, ICARE is training young food and agribusiness leaders through state-of-the-art, western-based curricula, internships with agricultural industries, and cutting-edge research.

ICARE sponsors the Agribusiness Teaching Center (ATC), a department of the Armenian National Agrarian University in the capital city of Yerevan. The ATC is a modern center of excellence for teaching, outreach, and research in Armenia and the South Caucasus region. It aims to give graduates the economic, marketing, and managerial skills needed to compete in the region’s growing agricultural and food processing sectors. Its training and research programs spur entrepreneurial activity in the agribusiness sector throughout Armenia and Georgia. Courses are taught in English by American, Armenian and other international instructors.

One aspect of agribusiness crucial to opening new markets for Armenian products is food safety. Joe Marcy, head of the Department of Food Science and Technology at Virginia Tech and faculty members from Pennsylvania State University created a food safety systems management certification course for the ATC. The certificate program was specifically designed to provide much-needed food safety expertise and management skills for the region's agribusiness sector. The first cadre completed the course in 2017.

ICARE, with support from CIRED and other partners, is also providing business development services to small- and medium-sized enterprises around the country. CIRED executive director Van Crowder and InnovATE/Armenia project director Angela Neilan got a first-hand look at some of these activities during a visit to Armenia in September. They joined a group of Armenian fish farmers as they toured a demonstration fish farm and hydroponic greenhouse in the rural village of Apaga, in the Mt. Ararat Valley.

The demonstration farm’s goal is to show fish farmers how to reuse precious ground water while also producing valuable horticultural crops such as greens, vegetables, and herbs. As the farm recirculates water from fishponds, byproducts of the fish production process enrich the water with nutrients. This water is then used to irrigate fields or to fertilize other crops. 

CIRED has been a crucial supporter of ICARE’s fish farmer training initiatives for several years. Armenian fish farming and horticulture experts came to Virginia last September for training hosted by CIRED and Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources. They learned new ways of building recirculating fish production equipment as well as new approaches to harvesting and marketing their fish.  The delegation also traveled to Longwood University and Virginia State University to visit fish farming research ponds and small-scale family fish farms in Virginia. 

ICARE also operates the EVN Wine Academy, which is rebuilding Armenia’s 6,000-year-old wine making industry after decades of underinvestment when the country was part of the Soviet Union. EVN teaches virtually all aspects of wine production and marketing. Students and wine producers are taught the latest in wine business, enology science and innovation, and learn about the country’s wine making heritage. EVN also offers short-term training for restauranteurs and others who want to learn more about wine and wine tasting.

CIRED recently worked with Texas A&M and Fresno State University on an external academic review of the ATC’s curriculum. The review will help ICARE and its Armenian partners focus their master’s curricula to meet future needs for those degrees.

CIRED is also partnering with ICARE to achieve financial sustainability after the InnovATE/Armenia project ends.  To support these efforts for the long term, ICARE is building a network of donors among Armenia’s vast overseas diaspora and ATC alumni.

Thanks to the work of ICARE and its partners like CIRED, Armenia’s agribusiness sector is gaining the skill base and building professional networks needed to improve the country’s economy.