Russ Zick (left) and Gezim Mecktec of Kosovo exchange design ideas to improve the dryer system used to dry herbs such as chamomile and mint.
Name: Russ Zick
Current title/profession: Project Engineer of Facility and Utility projects
Current hometown: Denver, Colorado
Areas of expertise: Mechanical engineering, postharvest processing, supply chain management, forensic engineering
Education: Masters degree in business administration specializing in international business and entrepreneurship, Bachelors degree in Aerospace Engineering
Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer Improving the Agricultural Sustainability in Kosovo
Location of the project: Kosovo
Organization that sent the volunteer: Engineers Without Borders USA
Through summer 2017, EWB-USA’s Engineering Service Corps (ESC) will be working alongside Kosovo’s Agricultural Growth and Rural Opportunities (AGRO) Program, which is administered by USAID through Tetra Tech. Kosovo’s citizens are the poorest in Europe, with most of the population living in rural towns outside of the capital. Economic opportunity is limited by common reliance on inefficient farming practices. Primary factors that hinder production are limited farm mechanization and lack of technical expertise.
An ESC team is currently on the ground providing engineering support to agriculture businesses who work with the farming community throughout the country. These highly skilled volunteers will work on assignments to evaluate, design and improve the process to bring agriculture products to the commercial market in Kosovo and for export throughout Europe. Kosovo’s value chain products include apples, pears, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blueberries, peppers, tomatoes, gherkin, cucumbers, lettuce, asparagus, medicinal and aromatic plants and dairy.
In summer 2016, Russ Zick, a project engineer, traveled to Kosovo to help partners of Tetra Tech team at the Agriculture Growth and Rural Opportunities (AGRO) office in Pristina, the capital and largest city in Kosovo. In his role, Russ provided mechanical engineering services, supplier identification and assessment, and assisted with project and talent identification.
When Russ landed in Kosovo he noticed how fortunate they are to have productive land and a capable farming culture. He noticed Kosovo also recognized the need to upgrade its food and food product processing capacity to expand export opportunities to the European Union and ultimately improve the country’s economic viability. With EWB, Russ accomplished some amazing in roads to achieve this goal. He worked with I Seferi diversifying its already established business by offering the nation’s first table grape pre-cooler to their more than 50 growers. He aided Eurolona in creating a system that pasteurizes all milk products and its 20 small local dairy farms. He consulted with Produkt Natyrale to support the facility's first seed harvest. Finally, he assessed the energy sources for Fruitomania, reducing its high energy costs.
With great volunteers like Russ Zick, EWB-USA, USAID and VEGA are able to continue to upgrade Kosovo’s agribusiness industry, improving the lives of Kosovars across the country.