For the 2018-2019 growing season, more than 700 acres of farmland were sown by the Armenian Technology Group, Inc., to produce assorted varieties of seeds in Armenia. Gagik Mkerchyan, director of ATG operations in Armenia and Mekhitar Grigoryan chief agronomist, spearheaded the planting of high-quality wheat, alfalfa, corn, lentil, garbanzo and other legume seeds for reproduction throughout Armenia.
The objective of this year’s planting is to re-create Armenia’s Seed Bank, in order to make high-quality seeds available to the growers during natural disasters and / or to overcome man-made obstacles.
“Despite the hail-damage which some of our fields sustained prior to the 2018 harvest, we are satisfied with the outcome of that harvest. We were able to expand our operation,” stated Mkerchyan.
What began — with the assistance of USAID and USDA Foreign Agricultural Services from the 1990’s through 2008 — as the Wheat Project, continued with the private contributions of the Armenian-American community. Since the establishment of Armenia’s independence, the country faced at least two crises during which ATG- associated farmers helped bail it out of potential famines. (Please see then-US Ambassador Michael Lemmon’s letter to ATG on our website). Last summer, ATG’s Armenia staff again placed its entire seed inventory under production — first, to re-energize the private seed producers and, second, to make locally generated high-quality seed available to growers. It was then time for ATG to rebuild the seed bank again.
“We view a Seed Bank as an essential part of food security. It is an integral part of even national security, particularly for a landlocked country like Armenia.” said Varoujan Der Simonian, Executive Director of ATG.
ATG farm experts continue their Research & Development, in co-operation with the International Maze and Wheat Improvement Association (CYMMIT). Chief agronomist Mekhitar Grigoryan, who has been with ATG since 1992, annually, on 14 trial-plot sites, practices applied science methodology to select the best seeds varieties suitable for Armenia’s climate.
“Over the next two years we follow by extensive trials of those varieties at seven different growing zones in Armenia. We carry all the risks, and only after ensuring the best seed varieties suitable for producing results, which only then are made available to growers.” said Grigoryan.
The process has been part of the intent and purpose of our relationship with the international research center. It has now devoted over two decades to helping us increase farm productivity and income in Armenia.
ATG places high priority on preserving the quality of seeds, to ensure that farmers obtain only the highest quality. The process begins by roguing the fields early on. That involves removing, by hand, those plants and other seeds that may have undesirable characteristics from various fields. This is followed by sorting and, after harvest, treating and processing, prior to making the seed available to grain growers.
“We appreciate that Prime Minister Pashinyan’s administration is mediating between financial institutions and the growers, who, due to dishonest practices by members of previous governments, have either lost their lands or are in court trying to save their farms and livelihoods. We have faced a depopulation of the rural communities, where some 60% of the land is not being cultivated. It was time for us to rebuild the seed inventories again,” said Gagik Mkerchyan.
During annual field demonstrations, director Mkerchyan and agronomist Grigoryan re-emphasize to ATG associated farmers the benefits of utilizing a more cost effective and agriculturally efficient no-till farming methodology, underscoring that this will help increase farm income.
Re-supplying the country’s Seed Bank is crucial to strengthening the heartland of Armenia! It results in newly-created jobs, increased domestic productivity, freshly-generated income and, eventually, the growers’ ability to provide for their families and manage their own social needs.
Reflecting on the recent successes on Armenia’s fields, ATG board members strongly voiced agreement that the vital and timely financial support of 2017 contributors made possible a potentially tremendous impact for the coming 2018-2019 harvesting season.
Serving the people of Armenia since 1989, ATG is a California based501(c)3 non-profit corporation. Contributions are tax-deductible, and could be made on line or mailed to P. O. Box 5969, Fresno, CA 93755.