Rodenator: Small Business vs. Small Critters

Jane Wells with Rodenator
Jane Wells with Rodenator

One of the most popular booths at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., is Rodenator Worldwide.

Why? You have to see it in action.

The Rodenator shoots an ignited combination of propane and oxygen into tunnels created by squirrels, gophers, and badgers. "The timing is species specific," says Steve Bloomfield, whose Meyer Industries employs six people in Emmett, Idaho to make and sell the products to farmers and golf courses worldwide.

The company was started eleven years ago, and 53 percent of sales are international. Revenues last year were about $1.5 million, "an average year." Rodenators range in price from $1,800 to $3,150, with the highest priced contraptions allowing for remote firing 25 feet away. "It's more user friendly because nobody's standing over the firing hole."

The weapons seem tailor made for Bill Murray's Carl Spackler in "Caddy Shack."

"If Bill Murray had this it would've been a five-minute infomercial," Bloomfield jokes. "The movie would've been over."

As for being "species specific," Bloomfield says it takes 60 seconds to kill a pocket gopher, 90 seconds to kill a ground squirrel ("bigger tunnel system"), and a full two minutes to kill a badger. Depending on the price of propane, the cost is anywhere from 16 cents to 30 cents to destroy one tunnel.

So what's next?

"We're goin' to China in March," Bloomfield says. He says the company is partnering with the only government-sponsored pest control school in China. "They have a huge rat tunneling problem in the rice fields." The Rodenator will be a welcome new weapon.

How long to kill a rat? "Forty-five seconds."