Joe Abercrombie | 49 Langarans Award Recipient

Innovating to end the pest control scam

Social entrepreneurship, innovation at core of eco-friendly pest control company

When Joe Abercrombie moved from his home province of Alberta to attend Langara College in Vancouver, he figured he’d better pick up some part-time work to help pay for school.

He had years of experience working at his uncle’s wildlife control business back home and, despite being overqualified, decided to take a pest control technician job in the city. His first assignment was a house that had a heavy rat infestation.

“I took a walk outside and the place was riddled with holes,” Abercrombie remembers. “It was obvious the holes were the problem, so I looked at the guy who was supposed to be training me and asked, ‘We’re here to fix those, right?’”

Not quite, Abercrombie was told. Instead, the trainer said to put on his gloves, fill up poison stations and lay them out next to the holes.

“I was blown away,” Abercrombie said of the instructions.

He said the trainer went on to tell the homeowners that they would be billed monthly until they didn’t see any more rats inside their property, at which time the company would quote them on sealing up the house.

“That’s completely backwards to me,” he said. “That’s treating the symptom. Maybe you’re going to kill a rodent, and if you do it’s going to die in your structure. It’s obvious — you have to fix those holes and then deal with what’s left. Stop the flow.”

Abercrombie quit that day, only to find out that other companies in the city were the same. The “poison slingers,” as he calls them, were perpetuating the myths that customers can’t get a permanent result and that relying on poison to “control” the population is the only economical option.

“The industry standard is essentially to neglect the root cause in order to turn your wildlife conflict into a source of recurring revenue at your expense and at the environment’s,” he said.

So he got a loan, bought a truck and founded Humane Solutions Inc., a sustainable, innovative wildlife management company. By addressing root causes, such as filling holes in a house, he has grown a team of internationally qualified, human-wildlife conflict specialists and wildlife technicians. Over the past several years they have developed innovative services for all common pests, as well as high-profile wildlife concerns, helping everyone from homeowners to business owners and municipalities while earning nothing but five-star reviews.

“Instead of poison we use humane traps. Every rodent we control we physically remove,” he said. “We provide monthly reports with what we call ‘CatchData,’ making them unique to the industry. Customers get to see the total number of rodents caught, cost per rodent, and trend over time in terms of expenditure and catch.

“With that data we modify customers’ programs and make small changes. The idea is to get customers a permanent result and ultimately lower their pest control budget.

“That runs completely contrary to the industry standard globally.”

Humane Solutions Inc. is an eco-friendly wildlife pest control company, but at its core, Abercrombie said, is innovation.

For example, he has also developed a low-labour, humane rodent control system that is meant to directly compete with the poison industry and scale the CatchData methodology globally. He recently secured partnership and the system is about to move into the development stage.

Using his cutting edge company as a catalyst, he intends to come up with more creative solutions to serious ecological problems in the future.

About Langara College’s 49 Langarans Celebrating its 49th year on 49th Avenue, Langara is honouring 49 Langarans; those who are making an impact in the community and have helped shape the College into what it is today. From theatre directors and journalists to small business owners, community advocates, and dedicated employees – the stories of the award recipients are as varied as the College’s journey over the past 49 years.

Meet the 49 Langarans at beyond49.langara.ca