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Students discuss farming tech at ‘Agri-techathon’

A woman works at a rice field in Takeo province in 2015.
A woman works at a rice field in Takeo province in 2015. Post staff

Students discuss farming tech at ‘Agri-techathon’

Dozens of Cambodian college students gathered at the Royal University of Agriculture on Saturday to participate in an “agri-techathon” that encouraged them to discuss the need for sustainable and smarter technology-based solutions to support the sector.

Organised by the Belt and Road Angel Investment Roundtable, a Hong Kong-based fund that promotes startups, the techathon offered students an opportunity to hear from successful entrepreneurs in the Kingdom and learn to promote their ideas.

Pen Chanda, chairman and CEO of online payment gateway Bongloy, said during a panel discussion that the private sector needs to help push forward new ideas and find funding solutions.

“We look at entrepreneurs as the future of this country,” he said. “[Bongloy] wants to invest in ideas which it can help to push forward. The private sector is going to be crucial to developing technology in the country.”

Christine Zimmerman, chairwoman of the Association for Vertical Farming, spoke about the positive impacts of the technology, which uses less land and fewer resources to produce more food than traditional farming methods.

“We need to produce our food differently and closer to urban areas, where most people live,” she said. “You can make that happen and entrepreneurs are crucial.”

She noted that several Western countries have integrated vertical farming techniques that let farmers measure plant health and calculate the exact amount of pesticides to use.

While she was overwhelmingly supportive of the use of technology in agriculture, she warned against overuse of it.

“I mostly see positive impacts of technology in agriculture,” she said. “But the robotisation of our world is something we should be aware of, and we do have to look critically towards technology.”

Melanie Mossard, director of community at ImpactHub, encouraged the students in the crowd to be proactive about promoting their ideas and seeking help to create viable business plans.

“When you’re an entrepreneur, you have to speak about your big dreams,” she said. “Don’t be shy about asking for help. And remember that if you fail, it’s OK.”

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