“Win-win” agriculture project benefits Georgian farmers and Oklahoma firm

Bill Lingren on behalf of Trécé tells Farming First readers how a pest infestation brought together farmers and an agriculture firm from across the world.

An agricultural emergency on the other side of the world has provided an Oklahoma-based company with the opportunity to help protect a critical crop in a faraway nation—as well as bolster and expand its own manufacturing operations back at home.

The crop is hazelnuts. And the country is the Republic of Georgia, where hazelnut orchards have been under attack in recent years by an infestation of the brown marmorated stinkbug (BMSB).

The invasive pest represents a serious threat to the livelihoods of the small producers in Georgia who grow the nuts. According to one study conducted in early 2017, for example, the infestation was expected to reduce the prior year’s value of Georgian hazelnut exports and income to 40,000 smallholder farmers by more than $60 million.

The situation was critical enough to spur one international development organization, CNFA, to expand a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) project which it oversees in order to address the infestation.

After competitively testing a variety of solutions, CNFA last year selected Trécé Inc., an Adair, Okla.-based manufacturer of insect monitoring systems and pheromones, to provide tens of thousands of its state-of-the-art BMSB lures and traps—manufactured at Trécé plants in Adair and Chelsea, Okla.—to protect Georgia’s hazelnut sector and safeguard other key agricultural products. CNFA then worked directly with Georgia’s National Food Agency to deploy the products and train local farmers in their use.

Encouraged by the additional business generated by the contract financial implications of the award, Trécé began expanding its international development efforts. In March 2018, for example, the company organized and independently sponsored a team of U.S.-based scientists to travel to Georgia with Trécé’s own scientists to study the BMSB infestation, which is attacking not only hazelnuts, but also many of the country’s other orchard and field crops, such as grapes, corn, peaches, apples and vegetables.

Trécé’s efforts have paid off. The company this month broke ground for a new facility as part of a corporate expansion which the firm credited in part to new revenue generated by its participation in the Georgian international development project. The groundbreaking at Trécé’s main Adair facility—attended by U.S. and Georgian dignitaries, members of state and local government, and academia—was part of a day-long event that also included the blessing of a new office building, and a plant and lab tour.

The Georgia project is a prime example of the double benefits generated by international development work. It is a win-win project that produces real, positive, measurable results on two sides of the world. The project has put Trécé’s products into the hands of thousands of smallholder farmers in Georgia to help them combat a serious infestation using the latest science, while also providing financial rewards for Trécé, our employees and their communities.

These kinds of business relationships are critically important to U.S. companies like ours—those which operate in rural areas, and success in rural Georgia helps support our success in rural Oklahoma by generating additional new capital investment, jobs and income right here at home,. As we’ve seen at Trécé, international development can produce very desirable outcomes which can open many more doors to new opportunities.