Tips on Finding International Agents, Distributors or Reps

Tips on Finding International Agents, Distributors or Reps

Posted on February 1, 2022

Finding buyers internationally can be a challenge for many businesses, large or small. One approach that may be useful to finding buyers in-country is engaging with a partner, foreign distributor, or agent to represent your company in an overseas market. These relationships can take on a variety of roles, including sales, relationship building, customer visits, and attending tradeshows on the company's behalf. There are many benefits to having such a resource available in your chosen international market, but detailed vetting and trust are needed to ensure success.

Before engaging with a foreign representative, it's good practice to do market research to identify where your product will fit and how you want to move forward. Without these essential questions answered, your approach may have less impact. Unless the products are sold directly to consumers, or easily sold online, a foreign representative, distributor, or agent may be one of the best ways to get local market access.

Doing your homework at this stage is essential. Honing in on the market and the company's needs is a good start. Once goals are established, it can be highly beneficial to find someone who will represent the company's products and values well, help negotiate goods deals, and serve as a cultural liaison in your chosen market. Working with domestic resources such as the US Commercial Service or the NDTO to research or be introduced to reputable contacts can be beneficial. It might even be beneficial to make a  journey to the market yourself. This way, you have the opportunity to fine-tune the companies needs and what is expected in an overseas representative. Connections may also be found by engaging with the US or the international markets' trade associations. These organizations may help identify contacts and distributors. There are many examples of individual industry professionals with a strong presence who will make a great representative for hire throughout your target markets, and these people should not be overlooked.

The hiring process for an overseas representative will require some research. Are you hiring this person on to your team as an employee, or will they be a contracted individual? Each country has differing laws for employees and their tax codes. Often it may be beneficial to hire independent contractors, as the burdens of tax laws often fall to the contractor, not the company. Regardless, the you need to do the due diligence to understand where these burdens fall to avoid any unexpected taxes. Be sure to complete this research before entering into any agreements, so both parties have clear expectations from the beginning.

When entering into agreements, be clear and concise with what your company needs in that international market. Trust is crucial for these relationships because direct oversight is limited due to physical distance. Approach each new market with an open mind and be flexible. Different countries do business differently and the agreement you enter into with your foreign representative will often be market-dependent.. Additionally, a company may have a mix of distributors, individual sales representative or larger agency representatives depending on their needs.

When choosing an international representaibe, be sure to consider the following:

  • Asking around: there may be similar people or companies in the same industry with some advice to give, be it positive or negative.
  • Create a formal agreement: a more formal agreement allows for clear objectives, outcomes and control of your product and how it is represented.
    • Make sure it spells out conduct and termination clauses.
  • The local laws: some agreements are acceptable while others are not legally binding. This is highly dependent on the country and it is recommended to consult with legal professionals with knowledge of international law to assist with the agreement finalization.
  • Training: depending on the company and expertise of the agent/representative it might be best to bring them to the US for training. This allows the company to build a relationship and ensure products are well represented. Or, a company may visit overseas periodically, schedule calls, or jointly operate tradeshows to ensure everything is in order.
  • Maintain regular communication and oversight.

Another option is to hire someone from the US and send them to the intended market or country. With this option, be sure to understand their motivations and comfort with the  market, as there are more challenges when doing business in different cultures. Finding someone with experience in that market will help the business hit the ground running.

Whichever option best suits your international business, remember that time and dedication are needed for expansion. Patience, consistent communication, and clear expectations are pinnacles when finding a representative, agent, or distributor overseas.

Additional Resources

American Express: 5 Ways Your Business Can Find an International Distributor

Entrepreneur: How to Find an Overseas Distributor

International Trade Administration: Finding Buyers and Partners

Universal Cargo: Selling Overseas?: How to Find and Hire a Perfect Sale Rep for Your Business

HS 22 and HTS Updates for the New Year

HS 22 and HTS Updates for the New Year

Posted on February 1, 2022

The World Customs Organization (WCO) reviews the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (often called a Harmonized System or HS Codes) every five years. The codes themselves are used globally to standardize and categorize products for international trade.  The goal of the WCO revisions is to keep the codes up to date with constantly evolving technology and emerging global issues. Now in its seventh edition finalized in 2019, there are 351 sets of updates and modifications encompassing many products in the new version nicknamed “HS 22” (2022 being the year the changes come into effect). These updates will guide participating countries on how to modernize their own tariff systems for more consistent product classification for trade across borders.

A full list of the new HS 22 edition is linked below, but here is a sampling of new classifications categories:

  • 3D printers
  • Chemicals and materials specifically controlled under international conventions
  • Electronic waste (e-waste)
  • Fully electric heavy-duty vehicles
  • Rapid diagnostic kits for health and medical research
  • Smartphones
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

The new HS codes were effective January 1, 2022. With more than 200 countries impacted, it is important to understand the updates as they apply to your company and products when shipped internationally. If old classifications are used, you may find customs and regulatory delays. The US has made steps to modify the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) which is based on the HS classifications. The additions were accepted by the US International Trade Commission and signed by President Biden in December 2021. The US HTS System adopted these codes on January 27, 2022 (30 days after the presidential proclamation).

Moving forward, be sure to evaluate any global trade management software to align with new product codes. Many items may need reclassification, and if a manual process is used, take the time to ensure products have the most up-to-date classifications. Doing this will save time from shipping delays, unnecessary customs scrutiny, and government regulation issues in the long run. Experts say to pay special attention to the updates in the classification descriptions, legal notes, and product-specific descriptions, as these many have undergone revisions.

Several ND companies specializing in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS or drones) may find the new HS 22 codes a welcome change, as they now include tariff codes specifically for UAS and drones. UAS was previously classified as crewed aircraft, which did provide ample definitions matching this type of technology. The new codes can more accurately describe the drones in a variety of ways.

Many of the updates have to do with technological advancements, environmental issues, and dual-purpose items needing more specificity and clarifications. For a recap on HS codes, see our previous article Harmonized System Codes for Harmonized Global Trade. The NDTO can help with HS classifications and help guide your trade questions.

Additional Resources

Cryoport Sytems Logistics: 2022 Updates to the Harmonized System (HS) and Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS)

The White House: A Proclamation to Modify the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States and for Other Purposes

US International Trade Commission: Harmonized Tariff Schedule (2022 Preliminary Edition)

World Customs Organization: HS Nomenclature 2022 edition

JDSUPRA: New Import Codes for Drones – What You Need To Know

Press Release: Japanese Consul General Visits North Dakota to Strengthen Local Ties

Press Release: Japanese Consul General Visits North Dakota to Strengthen Local Ties

Posted on January 14, 2022

Consul General Tajima Hiroshi tours Crary Industries in West Fargo, ND.

FARGO, ND - The North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) is hosting the Japanese Consul General Hiroshi Tajima along with representatives from the Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO) and Honorary Consul Ron Leonhardt this week. The visit is a continuation of the Japanese Consulate in Chicago’s Grassroots Caravan initiative in which they seek to collaborate with state, regional, and local leaders and build economic cooperation between Japan and the US. Following a successful visit to western ND in August 2021, the delegation is interested in learning more about the agriculture, energy, and technology industries across the state. Their visit to ND included meetings with Governor Burgum, Commerce Commissioner James Leiman, and NDTO’s Executive Director Drew Combs, as well as tours of SB&B Foods in Casselton, ND, Red Trail Energy in Richardton, ND, and a special visit to Crary Industries in West Fargo, ND, which is a subsidiary of Yamabiko Corporation based in Tokyo, Japan.

Governor Burgum with Consul General Tajima Hiroshi.

“It is an honor to host the Japanese Consul General Tajima and his team in North Dakota,” says Governor Burgum. “We are excited for the many collaborative opportunities in energy, technology and agriculture that will benefit many North Dakotans for years to come.” With a variety of potential investment opportunities, both the Japanese and ND companies can work closely to achieve mutually beneficial endeavors. Commissioner Leiman explains that “The relationship we have with Japan is special. We share similar values, enjoy long-term relationships and have a desire to jointly grow our economies using innovation to accelerate clean energy development.” ND is growing in many leading sectors, and with increasing connections to establish relationships worldwide, the state will be paving the way in more industries across the globe.

“The NDTO looks forward to facilitating ongoing relationships with our Japanese partners in a variety of sectors throughout North Dakota. Sustaining these connections is integral for many cooperative projects in the future,” says Combs. As ND looks to continue advancement across agriculture, energy, and technology industries, growing partnerships will help sustain and positively impact the economy.

In addition to strengthening business ties, Consul General Tajima and the delegation took time to visit Miss Okayama, a nearly 100-year-old Japanese-American Friendship Doll, which is housed in the Emily Reynolds Historic Costume Collection at NDSU.

A governor-led Japanese trade mission is planned for the second half of 2022, with more details forthcoming. This trade mission, planned by the NDTO and the ND Department of Commerce, is an opportunity to reinvigorate existing relationships and connect with the Japanese in their own country, further cementing partnerships between the two governments.


Additional photos of the visit are available upon request. 

Teaching Trade at the University of Jamestown

Teaching Trade at the University of Jamestown

Posted on January 6, 2022

During the 2021 fall semester, NDTO’s Executive Director Drew Combs, jumped at the opportunity to engage more people in global trade. A group of students from the University of Jamestown in Jamestown, ND, enrolled in the Special Topics course on Economics and Export Trade Management. The course was overseen by Dr. Mort Sarabakhsh and has been ongoing for several years.

Students had the opportunity to explore global trade topics, emphasizing the intricacies of exporting to different countries, approaching and solving problems that may arise from an array of international uncertainties, understanding the ND export market, and factors impacting trade.

 “Engaging more folks in international trade, especially the younger generation, is of particular importance for the NDTO and North Dakota as it continues to expand globally,” says Combs. The students took an in-depth look at the world around them and consistently engaged with the current events on an international scale. This year was a good opportunity for students to see export impacts globally; trade has made international headlines for supply chain issues, port backlog, and large parts of the economy forced into a standstill with the global pandemic. 

As a final project, teams selected a product to export and created a market strategy plan that considered in-country factors like the political environment, cultural norms, competition, legal roadblocks, and transportation issues to gauge the success of their selected product. Then, a Shark-Tank-like presentation to a panel of judges honed in their pitching strategy for becoming export experts.

Overall, the course emphasizes how ND fits into the global economy and how to work through the complexities of exporting in today’s environment. The NDTO has taught this course every two years and will hopefully continue to provide more people with the insights and skills to start thinking about exporting.

2022 Trade Outlook Roundup

2022 Trade Outlook Roundup

Posted on January 6, 2022

Time is precious for all of us, so let's be efficient in 2022. Here's a summary of global trade experts' market outlooks and industry insights for 2022.

AgWeb: 2022 Outlook: Why Corn's Sweet Spot May Be Below $6 in the New Year

Corn exports are expected to be lower than in years past, primarily due to the change in importing from China. Experts say much of the corn pricing in 2022 is linked to the price of fertilizer and the balance that has to be struck with planting corn and fertilizing the fields.  This balance is less concerning in the US, than for other countries, but the price of corn will likely fall under $6 a bushel but be above $5. However, if crude oil prices remain high, this could also mean good news for corn prices.

Barron's Report: Most Commodities Had a Great Year. But 2022 Looks More Challenging.

Commodities including energy, gold, natural gas, oil are highlighted in this article. Many commodities saw an uptick in 2021, but 2022 will likely bring hardship due to financial systems phasing out stimulus and uncertainty with many policies and regulations focusing on supply and demand. There will likely be increased inflation due to supply chain issues which will continue to impact the globe, but it is not likely to heavily impact consumer spending.

Euler Hermes: Global Trade Report- Battling Out of Supply Chain Disruptions

The supply chain disruptions, they believe, will likely ease in Q2 and into Q3 of 2022. The report cites three main factors that will lead to a reduction in supply chain disruptions. Many countries have ended their pandemic stimulus packages, leaving pocketbooks less full into the future, decreasing consumer demand for goods. Inventories have adapted to the current supply chain conditions and are planning ahead more easily. An increase in container ships will also ease some of the burdens that have plagued the shipping industry as the shipping capacity will expand.

Financial Post: Outlook 2022: Big Dog for Canada's Trade is Still the United States

For 2022, Canada still anticipated the US as its largest trading partner but is looking to diversify. The updated NAFTA (USMCA) agreement has helped Canada with clear paths on discipline for violations of the agreement, but the current Prime Minister has taken swift action on trade threats as a means of retaliation which has not been historically typical for the Canadians. The country hopes to grow its automotive industry, but this may be a challenge with so many competitors nearby.

Global Trade Magazine: How to Prepare for Global Logistics in 2022

Despite the seemingly never-ending hardships to global shipping this year, with the Suez Canal blockade, labor shortages, hurricanes, and port closures, 2022 may bring some of the same. Learning to adapt and overcome will be an integral part of success in the new year. Their recommendations for a less disruptive 2022 is to get creative, look into different modes of transportation, utilize less-than-container load (LCL) shipping options and consider inland travel if possible. Take the opportunity to engage in more technology and data analytics to assist with supply chain disruptions and increase efficiency. There may also be untapped opportunities closer to home as everyone struggles with the supply chain. Look into suppliers or customers that may be geographically closer than your usual sources.

UNCTAD: Global Trade Updates (Novemeber 2021)

As global trade stabilized in late 2021, the outlook for 2022 still remains uncertain due to the following factors:

  • The speed of economic recovery has varied greatly in 2021, with lower than projected growth in Q3 for many countries. The rising inflation and commodity prices will impact recovery.
  • Supply chain disruptions and uncertainty will continue into 2022, along with the semi-conductor shortage
  • geopolitical tensions and increased regional trade negotiations are altering trade patterns globally.
  • Governmental Trade policies have become increasingly focused on domestic goals. They have also increased scrutiny on environmental impacts, human rights issues, and security.

USDA: Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade: November 2021

US agricultural exports are expected to remain high, and 2022 could quite possibly be a record-breaking year for many, including wheat, livestock, poultry, dairy, and ethanol. Soybeans and oilseeds for export are down slightly from the previous predictions.  The USDA anticipates export sales to reach $175.5 billion, which is $1.5 billion higher than 2021's estimates. While supply chains issues are still causing backups and bottlenecks, there is some evidence that this is to smooth out in 2022.

YPO Global Pulse: Business Outlook for 2022:

YPO surveyed chief executives across 101 countries and 44 industries to provide an outlook on global business for 2022. The majority of their respondents (81%) are optimistic for 2022. Revenue and hiring are increasing for 37% of respondents, but nearly half also say their employment levels are similar to their 2020 numbers.  Only 2% of respondents believe that the supply chain issues will resolve in early 2022, with more than 80% of members being very or somewhat concerned about the impact of supply chain issues across all regions. Opinions on if inflation and rising prices of goods and services will happen also seem imminent to most respondents. The survey also highlights trends in working from home policies across the globe and what sectors are traveling again.

As you can see, there is some variation among experts as to when exactly the supply chains will recover in 2022, but most outlooks are optimistic for later in the year. There are high expectations for improvement in several markets, but much of this hinges on the buying power of consumers.  Jobs will likely be on the rise, and so will inflation.  However, with the easing of supply chains and more hands to help, hopefully, there will be more bright spots in 2022.

India’s New Non-GM and GM-Free Requirements

India’s New Non-GM and GM-Free Requirements

Posted on January 6, 2022

In 2020 the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) issued orders to require Non-Genetically Modified (GM) and GM-free certificates on certain agricultural and food consignments imports. Further clarification has been forthcoming since the requirement took effect in March 2021, and in November of 2021, more information was clarified on how to provide this documentation.

India touts this certification requirement as a safety regulation for its consumers. India has had a long history of regulating GM and Genetically Engineered (GE) products in their food supply chains, which have caused hardship and frustration on both sides of the debate for letting GM/GE foods into the country and into their farming practices. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are currently not allowed in India's food products for human consumption. However, there has been some gray area around feeding GMO products to animals, and those animals go directly to human consumption. This has been the case for GMOs in chicken feed, which has made the Indian poultry market more profitable but has also introduced GMOs into the food supply chains.

With this new regulation, a “competent national authority” of the exporting country is needed for the certification documentation. In the US, the USDA and similar agencies like the ND Dept of Agriculture are tasked with providing such certifications, allowing entry of GM-Free products into the Indian marketplace. The certificates are needed for items intended for direct use in food or processing, according to recent clarifications from FSSAI. Anything imported that defies the GM rules will require prior approval from the FSSAI before entry.

Each of the 24 crop groups listed below will need to be accompanied by documentation certifying its non-GM or GM-free status. Several of the targeted products are grown in ND. Below is the list of the specific foods requiring non-GM or GM-free certification if exported to India.

  1. Alflalfa (Medicago sativa)
  2. Apple (Malus x Domestica)
  3. Agentina Canola (Brassica napus)
  4. Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
  5. Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
  6. Cowpea (Vigna unguiculate)
  7. Egg Plant (Brinjal) Solanum melanogoa
  8. Flax seed (Linumusitatissimum)
  9. Maiz (Zea mays)
  10. Melon (Cucumis melo)
  11. Papya (Carica papaya)
  12. Pineapple (Ananas comosus)
  13. Plum (Prunes domestica)
  14. Polish canola (Brassica rapa)
  15. Potato (Solanum tuberosum)
  16. Rice (Orzya sativa)
  17. Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius)
  18. Soybean (Glycine max)
  19. Squash (Cucurbita pepo)
  20. Sugar Beet (Beta vulgaris)
  21. Sugarcane (Sacchrum sp)
  22. Sweet Pepper (Capsicum annuum)
  23. Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum)
  24. Wheat (Triticum aestivum)

Recent talks on this regulation were brought up at the India-US Policy Forum in New Dehli in November 2021, and India held its ground on the measures, saying that GM food was not allowed in their country. In a joint statement from both the Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry, Shri Piyush Goyal and US Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai, they emphasized that talks were still ongoing and there was some possibility of future market access adjustments available for agricultural products.

With these new regulations, if your ND company is struggling to find the right place to find information, the NDTO is here to help. NDTO’s International Business Manager Jiwon Kim says, “we are happy to work as a bridge to assist exporters who have questions on India’s GM rules, and we can connect you with the right agencies to help.”  NDTO will continue to watch for updates to the GM certification process in the future to keep you informed.


Member Profile: Summers Manufacturing

Member Profile: Summers Manufacturing

Posted on December 2, 2021

Summers Manufacturing is an employee-owned business in
Devils Lake, ND, with a passion for strong and durable equipment. They have
been producing farm equipment like tillers, land rollers, and sprayers since 1965
and see their slow and steady growth continuing well into the future. Territory
sales managers John Helgaas and Ben Idland took some time to discuss exports,
manufacturing in ND, and how Summers has continued to excel.

The company's backbone is its consistent workforce with many
years of experience who are fiercely loyal. For many businesses across the
country, workforce shortages have become an issue, but with dedicated
employees, Summers can also focus on farmers' hardships too. "We have to
adapt to what the farmer's challenges are," says Helgaas, "if they
have labor shortages, we can adapt our products to use fewer laborers." He
goes on to talk about how this industry (manufacturing and farming) was born
out of adaptability. Farmers have been adjusting to the environment, labor
needs, and with or without the pandemic, they have a strong history of being
creative, innovative, and forward-thinking to overcome challenges. "Summers
is made up of farmers," says Helgaas, and they strive for creative

Summers primarily exports their products to Canada, Russia,
and more recently, Australia with growing success. "We are a pretty small
company to have a global impact," says Idland, with about fifty employees
in Devis Lake and four in Aberdeen, SD. "But, once a country gets their
first taste of how tough our equipment is, they keep coming back. For example,
we have had such a huge surge in Russia, and our equipment has to be tough for
their environment," touts Idland.  
The company has found a niche where their products work well, and to
continue the momentum, maintaining their relationships and ongoing support in
those markets is necessary.  They have
had an employee in Russia for several years to cement their relationships in
the country.

Helgaas had three pieces of advice to share with new exporters
as they get into new markets:

  1. Align yourself with people already doing
    business in that country. There are a lot of challenges, but an ally can
    provide vital information and requirements you may not have considered.
  2. Make sure you are in a growth market. Don't go
    into a market that is on the downturn of expansion.
  3. Take exporting slow and steady. Take the time to
    get your feet wet.

Taking the initiative to find reliable resources, good
market data, and a measured approach will help new exporters maintain
scalability and lasting growth. Summers has ebbed and flowed over the years,
but the two explained their slow but steady expansion has paid off. The company
has gradually scaled up over time. Idland explains how manufacturing facilities
like Summers are harder to scale up or down quickly. It makes more sense to
grow slowly. Working on engaging businesses with longer contract life has been
essential to ensure that an investment in new facilities and new equipment for
expansion will pay off. 

Technology is infiltrating many aspects of life for
manufacturers like Summers. With opportunities to increase production speed and
accuracy, the company embraces new technology both on the manufacturing floor
and in its global relationships. Robotics have been incorporated into the
manufacturing facility with robotic welders and CNC press breaks that allow
precision sheet metal bending. These upgrades have been welcomed by many of the
workers. Idland explains that the robots save the employees time, increase efficiency,
and make work a little easier, so they are happy to have them.

For the sales and service team, the capability to have virtual
meetings with contacts overseas has been an essential part of the business over
the last year and a half. It has helped the company maintain relationships,
make deals, and keep the dialog going. "Getting real-time feedback from
potential customers overseas has been crucial. You can see their expressions,
hear the vitality in the conversations, and hopefully detect any unsureness
before it becomes an issue," says Helgaas. Inland also says the
opportunity to keep connecting with their overseas customers has been great. "It
is now possible for us to hop on a video call and show them how something works
in real-time instead of talking over the phone to try and understand each other's
needs." YouTube and other platforms have also played a role in showing the
customers how to utilize Summers products effectively, with more people having
access to quick answers and visual information.

Both Helgass and Idland note that supply chains have been an
ongoing issue on several fronts, like so many businesses and consumers,
products, and parts are running way behind."When it comes down to it,"
Helgaas says, "we [manufacturing companies] are all competing for the same
thing,  we all use the same steel, hoses,
and parts to manufacture our products, so this becomes difficult to ensure
everything is acquired." As so many manufacturers are waiting on parts for
their products, the media's magnification on shipping issues has provided
transparency from customers. "Everybody is frustrated with shipping. At
least with real-time information, some of the pain can be transferred off of
businesses like us, as it is a global issue," says Helgaas. The team
remains hopeful that many of these issues will resolve over the next few

Summers has built their reputation for building rugged equipment that meets farmers' needs and has continued to expand its products globally. And despite the global pandemic, they have found bright spots in communication and technology that have served them well. The innovative spirit of a farmer is embraced by this team of hard-working individuals. At the end of our conversation, Helgaas couldn't help but add that "this is a proud North Dakota company, it is made up of farmers, and that is something I will stand behind."

NDTO Fall Happenings

NDTO Fall Happenings

Posted on December 1, 2021

Your NDTO has been busy! The team is working for you to expand global trade for ND businesses. It's been so great to connect with friends old and new, and we wanted to share the many things happening at the NDTO.


In September, NDTO hosted a delegation from the Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO), which included representatives from the Japanese government, as well as numerous Japanese businesses. While in ND,  the delegation met with Governor Burgum, Lieutenant Governor Sanford, Commerce Commissioner James Leiman, ND Dept. of Agriculture Director John Schneider, and  ND companies primarily in the energy sector. The mission was a success for both North Dakota and our Japanese partners.

The Big Iron Farm Show continued welcoming visitors in-person again this year, and the NDTO took the opportunity to meet with many members and participants throughout the show. In addition to visiting with exporters, NDTO hosted a small delegation from Liberia during the International Visitors Program. The Liberian delegation visited ND to learn more about farming practices and agriculture equipment.

Finally, in September, we welcomed Hataikarne Hearne, also known as Tai, to the NDTO team as an International Business Manager. She is an excellent addition to the team, with many years of experience in the finance sector, wholesale and resale businesses, and has an MBA from NDSU.



In October, the NDTO had the pleasure of hosting Members of Parliament from the Kenyan government for a tour across ND.  Our Executive Director, Drew Combs, led the delegation, introducing them to many companies across the state. During their visit, we were able to showcase many of the exciting advancements in technology, agriculture, ranching, and the beauty of ND.  They also had the opportunity to meet Lieutenant Governor Sanford, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, Commerce Commissioner James Leiman, and many more as they traveled from Fargo all the way to Medora with many stops along the way.

In mid-October, Drew Combs and Lindsey Warner traveled to Chicago, IL, to connect with consulates of Ecuador, Germany, Japan, Indonesia, and Taiwan. This was a great opportunity to meet impactful individuals from across the globe representing their respective countries and promote our great state and businesses.

Finally, David Bushby, Australia's Consul-General from Chicago,IL,  visited the ND state capital in mid-October and made connections with Lieutenant Governor Sanford, ND Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, and ND Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.


The NDTO Roadshow started in September and continued throughout November as Jiwon Kim, and Tai Hearne hit the road and visited EDCs, new businesses, NDTO members and partners, and potential exporters. The NDTO team has continued to branch out and understand the needs of exporters in our state and how we can better serve them.

In mid-November, the NDTO team also hosted  Director Chin-Sung Cheng and Officer of the Economic Division Meg Chen from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Chicago, IL. They were able to meet with Commerce Commissioner James Leiman and several businesses throughout eastern ND.

The NDTO is certainly not slowing down for the winter as the team is busy preparing for upcoming trade missions, reverse trade missions, educational programs, and the return of the Global Business Connections conference.

Stay tuned for more happenings at the NDTO, and have a safe and happy holiday NDTO Tseason.

Tech & Trade: The Internet of Things

Tech & Trade: The Internet of Things

Posted on December 1, 2021

The first wave of the internet began with personal computers, moving quickly into people's homes. The second wave of the internet came with the cellular phone revolution, where so many more people have access to the internet in the palm of their hand. Now almost all electronic devices are or soon will have the ability to connect to the internet. This can be anywhere from e-readers and tablets to refrigerators, pacemakers, and components in manufacturing facilities.

Each physical device connected to the internet would be included as part of the Internet of Things  (IoT). Inexpensive computer chips and widespread wireless networking combined with sensors make up this network of smart devices that relay data back to a source in real-time for interpretation.

What makes the IoT confusing or complex is that it is not simply one thing. It can be something small and innocent like a kid's toy or a full-scale self-driving vehicle. Anything that can be connected to the internet with a sensor, microphone, camera, GPS, or item you can control remotely can be included as an IoT device.   These devices automatically send information back to a network for data collection without any human interaction. Once received, this data can be analyzed for future needs.

The term "Internet of Things" was actually coined in 1999 by British Technology pioneer Kevin Ashton, but the term has taken some time to take hold. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags were one of the earliest IoT applications, which allowed for tracking using a small radio transponder. Now, RFID tags are used in many applications like tracking vehicles through an assembly line and have been injected into livestock or our family pets to relay information about ownership.

More sophisticated technology continues to enter the market, enabling even more real-time data-driven applications to improve efficiency, identify problems, and make our world more agile when faced with change.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is also called the 4th industrial revolution, referring to IoT technology based in a business setting. The variety of applications for industrial uses are increasing. Manufacturers can track the lifespan of parts, detect when systems are deteriorating before a breakdown occurs, and track inventory or temperature sensors across facilities. By using these sensor technologies, reduction of waste is possible as crucial components can be repaired at first signs of distress. With a focus on reducing consumption and e-waste, IIoTs can assist with monitoring systems for proactive maintenance, repair indicators, and performance issues (Adams, 2021).

Entire cities are embracing IoT technology for smart lighting, traffic and surveillance cameras, environmental sensors, water filtration, power stations sensors, dams and bridges, and many more essential functions to fulfill their duties more effectively. It also allows city planners to be more informed of the happenings in these well-connected locations.

Ports are even taking advantage of this intelligent technology. Smart ports use automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and IoT technology to monitor traffic flows, cargo handling, energy use, and pollution control/monitoring. Primarily focused on seaports but expanding to inland ports, the need for increased efficiency has been amplified by the pandemic. Yahoo Finance predicts that smart port tech will grow from $1.7 billion today to a $5.1 billion industry by 2026 (Global Smart Ports Market Analysis and Forecasts to 2026: Asia Pacific Forecast to Grow at Highest CAGR During 2021 to 2026, 2021). The real-time data collected and analyzed has been immensely helpful to understand the problem areas to increase efficiencies. Smart ports are expanding throughout the Asia Pacific region as its maritime growth is high with lower production costs and expanding economic development.

By multiplying the IIoT beyond one company in a supply chain but across the whole system, real-time data, inventory tracking, and GPS systems could provide information across the globe for trade in the process of moving goods from their source through production to the consumer. Take overland trucking, for example, sensors in every truck can relay vehicle health information back to a central IoT platform, any malfunctions can be detected and managed instead of breaking down in inconvenient places, causing delays. Preventative maintenance can even be scheduled en route or before a pickup of goods happens. The real-time data of products can be a great tool even for sensing the internal conditions of the goods themselves. The last thing that is wanted is a container full of grain to be full of water, and these sensors can identify these types of issues in real-time and alert you to any situations that arise (Smith, 2021).   All of this can even be done remotely from across the globe, giving more oversight to the goods and their handling from anywhere (Velocity Global, 2018).

One of the major concerns about all of this connectedness and data collection is privacy and security. Experts say that many of these devices are not able to be patched or updated for any bad or hackable code, leaving them open to threats. And, depending on what sensors are in the device, this could have serious implications, like speakers that can record everything said or smartwatches that track location and movement. Security is not only a concern for consumers, but the security also extends to the IIoT technology that may even be running costly and dangerous industrial equipment and vehicles.   Beyond the hacking implications, creators of IoT tech likely collect and sell the data for marketing or analytics uses (Corefield, 2021). Many governments across the world are trying to regulate and control the information and security of these products. They often warn of unintended problems that could have a major impact on companies and consumers who have chosen to embrace the technology and not fully consider the risks.

Many ND companies are creating smart technology that will integrate farms, medical equipment, and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) with a plethora of data collection tools all contributing to the IoT. Although many finer legal points will make headlines in the future, there are bright prospects for this type of integration globally. In the long term, we will likely see more transparency throughout the process of global trade if the technology is adopted and widespread.


Adams, T. (2021, August 26). Next Generation Supply Chain – Building The Circular Economy. Retrieved from Global Trade:

Corefield, G. (2021, August 23). European Commission Airs Out New IoT Device Security Draft Law – Interested Parties Have a Week to Weigh In. Retrieved from The Register:

Global Smart Ports Market Analysis and Forecasts to 2026: Asia Pacific Forecast to Grow at Highest CAGR During 2021 to 2026. (2021, August 24). Retrieved from Yahoo Finance:

Ranger, S. (2020, February 3). What is the IoT? Everything You Need to Know about the Internet of Things Right Now. Retrieved from ZDNet:

Smith, D. (2021, October 18). Keep an Eye on IoT: The Future is Now When it Comes to Tech's Role in Supply Chain Management. Retrieved from Global Trade:

Velocity Global. (2018, August 20). How the Internet of Things will Impact Global Business. Retrieved from Velocity Global:

NDTO Member Profile: AGT Foods

NDTO Member Profile: AGT Foods

Posted on November 4, 2021

AGT Foods, with two locations in ND (Minot and Williston), has become a global powerhouse in value-added pulse products. Starting in Regina, Canada, AGT Foods had the vision to keep the value-added processing facilities near the producers. The origin-based processing model has aided in global growth with this combination of producer/processor cooperation that serves the local community well. At the consumer level, many have not heard the name AGT Foods, but Eric Bartsch, Division Head, highlighted a variety of everyday products that have ingredients processed by AGT.  Their products include value-added pulses such as peas, lentils, chickpeas, beans and more.

AGT’s model of building processing facilities near the crop production adds value to that community, instead of the traditional model that exported raw products worldwide for value-added processing. “Within a 2-3 year period, we were able to become a dominate player in the pulse industry for value-added pulse products,” explains Bartsch. By bringing together quality pulse crop producers along with processing capabilities and technology, AGT was able to bring more to the table than other companies in the pulse ingredient market.

In 2013, AGT built its first large-scale facility for milling of pulses in Minot, ND. The operation focused on producing flours, proteins, starches, and fibers to be used as food ingredients.  In Minot, pulses are transformed using milling and extraction techniques, pulling out proteins, starch, and fiber to fit different market demands. This value-added process benefits ND in many ways, and Bartsch (a ND native) wouldn’t have it any other way, “this area is attractive because of its hard-working people, with strong ethics. The diversity of agriculture is also a key factor. This area can support anywhere from chickpeas to dry beans. Really, this region with its environment from people to the land is what created a thriving business.”

ND, SD, and MT produce a variety of high-quality pulse crops such as dry beans, lentils, and peas. There are many benefits in keeping the value-added processing and producers in close proximity. “We can see the market changes and anticipate the need with so many connections to the farmers themselves,” noted Bartsch.  Building and maintaining these relationships directly with the buyers and the producers, AGT can facilitate the perfect products and processing needs for all parties involved.

The pulse industry has seen great shifts in consumer demands over the past decade. In previous decades, the majority of pulse crops were heavily utilized in Asian and Middle Eastern markets, “now there is increased demand for these products across the US and other parts of the world,” explains Bartsch.  Consumers are more aware of their food's nutrition and ingredient makeup, and pulses have the perfect profile for supplementing those needs.  AGT’s processing facility goes beyond cleaning, splitting, and color sorting (although they do that too); the company has the technology to separate protein from starch and concentrates the results, uses non-chemical de-flavoring techniques, and much more to provide a variety of ingredients. Bartsch notes the changes in how consumers have increasingly adopted pulse products,  “there was a time when the only thing people knew what to do with a bag of split peas was making split pea soup, and now we see the ability of these products to be transformed into snack foods, beverages, and even pasta.”  More recently, VeggiPasta has hit the market for consumers as a pasta alternative and was developed in Minot, ND. The pea pasta is a successful gluten-free pasta alternative.

The company has expanded its model of origin-based processing, adding facilities in the US, Canada, Turkey, Australia, and South Africa. They have also expanded ingredient offerings with non-GMO, gluten-free, and non-allergenic products, all of which ship to more than 120 counties worldwide.  With so much product movement across the US and globally, AGT utilizes Minot’s intermodal facility with great success. But, like so many, transportation has been a challenge with the ongoing pandemic impact. Making the most of the obstacles, AGT has been able to work with US companies to help on-shore some activities and supply pulse products that were previously imported to US companies. They have also seen buying shifts that moved away from restaurant sales to focus on increases in consumer products. “We are starting to see some stabilization, overall, but it has been a mixed bag,” says Bartsch.

AGT is reimagining how pulse products and benefit all. “Prior to 2010, no one was transforming pulses as a functional ingredient. It just wasn’t done,” says Bartsch, “ but now, they can be made into snacks, drinks, and even burgers, but the innovation had to be there to make it happen.” By utilizing technology and creating new methods of processing, AGT continued to push the boundaries beyond traditional applications for pulse crops. Keeping the producers at center stage and leading innovation for pulse products globally will continue to be the focus of AGT Foods.