Feral hogs are a $1.5 billion problem in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. More than five million strong, they destroy crops, landscaping and native habitat and contaminate drinking water. They devour small, nesting wildlife and transmit more than 60 diseases and parasites. Babe, Wilbur and Piglet, these beasts are not.
JAGER PRO™ founder and retired Army marksman and Olympic shooting coach Rod Pinkston honed his skills hunting European wild boar while training with German jägermeisters and forstmeisters (masters of hunters and forests) in the early 1990s, prior to serving in Operation Desert Storm. The son of a commercial hog farmer, he knew firsthand the problems feral swine created at home. He decided then to build a business on what he knew.
“Going through my mind was the idea that we dominate the battlefield using military technology, so why not adapt these methods and equipment to solve human-wildlife conflicts as well?” he says. In 2006 – two years before retiring from the Army – Pinkston began inventing and testing the technologies and methodologies he would use to make JAGER PRO™ successful.
Pinkston, certain he had a business, sought advice from the UGA SBDC.
“Rod was working on his business plan and wanted it reviewed,” says Columbus Area Director Mark Lupo. “He was ready to lay the foundation in his operations to prepare for exponential growth. He knew it would grow this way because of the proliferation of the wild pig challenge in Georgia. He’s been like this throughout our relationship – always forward-looking and anticipating.”
JAGER PRO™ opened as a thermal hunting operation in 2007. Soon after, Pinkston realized he needed to find a more efficient way to eliminate feral hogs that did not require his clients to purchase expensive technology, stay awake all night or possess advanced shooting skills.
This led Pinkston to invent the M.I.N.E.™ Trapping System, which JAGER PRO™ markets along with night vision and thermal optics all over the U.S. And last year they expanded their trapping operations into Australia.
“We had a brainstorming session with the SBDC export consultant, Dimitris Kloussiadis, after Mark introduced us. With container costs high, we decided to license our equipment to be built in Australia. We manufacture the control boxes and cameras here and ship them overseas,” says Pinkston.
JAGER PRO™ also services major government contracts for feral pig removal. Through 2014, Pinkston and his staff of seven marksmen, all former military, are working on an Environmental Protection Agency hog removal contract for an area south of Macon. They were recently awarded a similar contract in Columbus, Georgia, and Dallas, Texas.
JAGER PRO™ products are available nationwide. “The problem is growing in the U.S., so we are training dealers in other states to be an extension of our feral swine control methods, technology and equipment,” he says.
Pinkston attended the SBDC GrowSmart™ program at the end of 2013 and is a former member of the Columbus CEO Peerspectives group.
“I think there’s no better tool for any entrepreneur to use than the UGA SBDC,” he says.