Unlocking the potential of Cambodia’s agricultural system with graduate Sothea Sao

Sothea Sao

Unlocking the potential of Cambodia’s agricultural system with graduate Sothea Sao

Passion for food and passion for country. This is what drives Sothea Sao, steering her study interests and aspirations towards a career in agribusiness, where she can design creative solutions to agricultural and food market issues in her beloved home country of Cambodia.

Undertaking a Bachelor of Science specialising in agriculture in Cambodia, Sothea set the stage for a soon to be thriving career in the agricultural industry. Working on a multitude of projects, Sothea leant her skills to market research, and product and enterprise development in the fields of water, sanitation and agriculture. These projects exposed her to a number of farming communities across rural Cambodia, and allowed her to gain a first hand understanding of the pressing issues in the agricultural value chain, setting off a new desire to seek effective solutions to agricultural market issues.

Driven by a desire to innovate, Sothea gravitated towards the Master of Global Food and Agricultural Business, a degree which would allow her to explore new ways of thinking about the food system, and equip her with the skills and knowledge necessary to follow her dream of improving food sustainability and agricultural performance in Cambodia.

"I’ve always believed there are a number of opportunities to unleash the potential of Cambodia’s agriculture and food sector".

The University of Adelaide was a natural choice for Sothea, where she would be able to pursue a specialised degree with the flexibility to tailor the program’s unique learning opportunities to her interests and career aspirations.

"The University of Adelaide has an established global and regional agri-food industry network which is a tremendous advantage for me to leverage. For instance, I have connected and networked with real business communities through actively participating in a number of regional agri-food industry events, such as Food South Australia Summits, EvokeAg2020 Asia Pacific AgriTech conference, and TropAg2019 conference".

Aligning her studies with her career interests, Sothea was introduced to a whole new world in agribusiness, from confronting food security, to the effects of climate change, limitations to natural resources and how increases in population change the food value chain. 

“I love how each course enabled me to analyse and discuss world food challenges. I’ve always been fascinated by learning from the effectiveness of previous interventions and solutions.”

The opportunity to gain practical, impactful experience was a highlight of Sothea’s studies, undertaking not one, but five business projects including market research for Urban Food Garden and Austofix, development of an engagement strategy for the AAI Global Skills Passport for Coffey, leading a team of international students to undertake a competitive landscape analysis for Melbourne based start-up, TheXword and conducting a sustainability performance evaluation for the Tonle Sap lake project under Coordination International.

“These experience gave me a chance to deploy knowledge, analytical and leadership skill, with enhancing an ability of communicating and delivering expected outcomes with limited timeframes. I would say undertaking these five different projects has boosted my confidence and creativity to a next level, in terms of applying new knowledge in designing solutions to real business issues.”Sothea Sao

After completing her studies in December 2020, Sothea returned to Cambodia and engaged in an incubation program, enabling her to create her own start up – BONG snacks. Exploring how clean energy can contribute to increased food production, BONG snacks sources local and natural ingredients to make a variety of wholesome and tasty snacks.

“I believe that this new venture will be a solution to postharvest loss, and agricultural market issues. More than food processing, it is a way to diversify new selling channels for our village's raw-products, possibly with an increase of extra income for the village. I am so excited to employ my new knowledge, skillsets and networks to validate these assumptions.”

Acutely aware that there is no one perfect solution to tackle the worlds agricultural and food issues, Sothea is inspired to make a difference and use the skills developed as part of her studies to make an impact in the agricultural industry.

“I want to be a person who inspires and supports the agri-food industry to think ambitiously about the future of our farm and food business. I believe that leading by example is a key to effectively engage with different stakeholders to enhance our agri-food industry performance in both local and international markets.”

Driven by her passion for her country and sustainable food production, Sothea has carved an incredible career for herself within the agribusiness industry, serving as an inspiration to those who follow in her path.

For a career with impact, look to the growing agribusiness industry. Set your career up for success in 2021 with a scholarship of up to 50% for our Global Food and Agricultural Business Programs.

Contact globalfood@adelaide.edu.au to find out more.

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