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InnovATE/Armenia, ICARE welcomes new leadership

Van Crowder

Since 2014, CIRED has managed the InnovATE-Armenia project, a $2.5 million, USAID funded project that promotes economic growth by assisting the development of a workforce trained to increase the competitiveness of Armenia’s agriculture sector. CIRED Associate Director Angela Neilan leads the project.  Our Armenian partner is the International Center for Agribusiness Research and Education (ICARE) Agribusiness Teaching Center. The goal is to support ICARE/ATC  to become a sustainable and modern center of excellence for teaching, outreach, and research for Armenia and the region.

On July 31, 2018, Dr.  Vardan Urutyan, ICARE director, was elected the Interim Rector of the Armenian National Agrarian University at the ANAU Board of Trustees. This marks a new era in developing agrarian education in Armenia.  On September 2, 2018, the ICARE Board announced Dr.  Arthur Grigoryan as the new ICARE director.  Arthur, who previously led ICARE’s program development efforts, brings many years of programmatic excellence, experience, and professional skills to this position.  We look forward to working with him on the continued successful implementation of the project.  Vardan and ANAU will, of course, continue to collaborate closely with ICARE and be an important CIRED partner.

A 2017 external review of ICARE’s Master of Agribusiness Program identified some outstanding aspects of the MAB program. The report evaluated the curriculum of the MAB as strong and achieving its goal of providing professional readiness to its students.

The review also found evidence of very strong business connections and ICARE’s excellent career support to students.  The review was led by Dr.  Victoria Salin, chair of Intercollegiate Faculty of Agribusiness, Department of Agricultural Economics, Texas A&M University, and included Dr.  Annette Levi, head of the Department of Agricultural Business, California State University-Fresno. 

Van Crowder, CIRED executive director, participated in the review and Angela Neilan, along with ICARE faculty and staff, did an excellent job organizing the review.

During 2018, much of the project’s efforts have focused on ICARE’s business plan and helping to build capacity at ICARE to increase revenue, including through grants, endowments, student sponsorships, and facilities support, with the goal of ensuring financial sustainability.  This effort has been led by project consultant David King, who has extensive resource mobilization experience.  The ICARE 2017 Annual Report reflects its accomplishments attracting external funding, which in addition to the USAID grant, includes funding from the German Agency for International Development (GIZ) and the Vine and Wine Foundation of Armenia, among others. 

A major ICARE success has been the EVN Wine Academy.  The academy offers study programs to prospective and practicing wine entrepreneurs, students, and wine enthusiasts.  The academy’s wine chemistry lab functions as a student learning lab and also directly serves the rapidly growing Armenian wine industry.  In 2017, the lab collaborated with 20 wineries and analyzed more than 350 samples. 

Armenia has very ancient winemaking roots, probably the oldest in the world.  In 2011, archaeologists announced the discovery of the world’s oldest-known winery, a cave located in Areni consisting of a shallow basin to press grapes, a vat for storage, and fermentation jars. The cave winery dates to about 4000 BC – 900 years before the earliest comparable wine remains found in Egyptian tombs.  According to an ICARE 2018 study, “wine tourism is now on its uplift, creating a unique market niche which can further boost both the tourism sector and the wine industry in Armenia.”