A businessman by trade, Sovathara Heng used to work for the agricultural department funded by the government. During that time, the project he worked on aimed to reduce poverty in Cambodia by ensuring that farmers enjoyed an increase of income.
To do that, Sovathara knew that they would need to increase their farm production to yield better products which can be sold for a higher price. In order to increase their income they would need more knowledge and better equipment.
This was when Sovathara realised that it was difficult to find data and information about agriculture because while the information was available, no one had started a platform which could pull all the information together.
With that as the backdrop, Sovathara founded AgriToday – an online e-magazine where users could share agricultural information. He hopes that this project will eventually develop into a central point which farmers can turn to for the latest agricultural developments.
Now, the AgriToday team are enrolled in Impact Hub’s EPIC programme – Cambodia’s first year-long incubator.
Geeks in Cambodia had a chat with Sovathara to find out more about his AgriToday project as part of a series that we are currently doing on projects enrolled in EPIC!
The following interview has been edited for clarity, flow and language.
Could you share with our readers some key features of the magazine?
Sovathara(S): Right now, there is no online magazine dedicated to agriculture so being the first online magazine focusing on that is one of the key features.
Another key feature is that we provide a full chain of information to our readers. For example, recently, the government said they have now approved the raising of snake head fish. But that article only said that the government has approved it. It doesn’t tell farmers the technical knowledge of how to raise them, or about the legal issues involved nor does it mention sources of supply or the potential market or which experts they can seek help from if they want to raise this breed of fish.
This would be the key feature of our magazine, to link the latest developments in agriculture to practical ways farmers can capitalise on these developments.
Why did you decide that an online magazine, instead of a printed one, would be best for your project?
S: There are two main reasons behind that. Firstly, I think our audience would be commercial farmers who already know how to calculate profit and loss in their business. They do this through their smartphone calculators. As smartphone users, we realise that they are constantly on the hunt for information or knowledge they can apply to their farms. So that makes them our first target audience.
Secondly, we see the trend of people using Facebook and social media to search for information. So to us, based on our work experience, those who adapt change are those with commercial mindsets. We’ve also realised that it’s those who have commercial mindsets that will have adopted such digital platforms.
As such, we thought that a website would be best suited to capture the attention of these individuals with commercial mindsets because we first want to work with those who are willing to adopt change. From there, we know that the more traditional farmers will follow suit once they see a method that works.
That’s really interesting! So lets have a chat about the EPIC programme, what motivated you to take part?
S: I think what motivated us was that we want to help farmers because we think this is really useful for them. From there, we realised we needed support. Support in terms of content development, how to identify our audience and how the audience receive/use information. We saw that EPIC was one of the programmes that could help us develop in these areas.
By participating in EPIC, we hope to be able to develop a real business plan, to have a better idea of where we are at as a startup and to better understand what our audience wants.
What has your experience been like in the EPIC programme so far?
S: It has been really good. For example, we have already crafted a survey to understand where we are and to understand who our audience is. From there, we’ll be able to shape our targets and better define our priorities in the months ahead.
Also, we have started to develop a business plan for our solution which is really great because before we joined the programme, we didn’t have much direction in terms of managing finances and looking for funding. But now, we have a clear enough direction.
How do you hope to see your project develop in the future?
S: We’d really love to cooperate with big media outlets like TV stations or even other magazines. In fact, we’re currently in talks with a TV station to develop a TV programme about agriculture and the main purpose of that programme would be to promote the availability of the agricultural service in Cambodia.
Eventually, we’d love to see that AgriToday helps farmers to profit from every activity they embark on. We hope that this online magazine will be a place where they can share their agricultural ideas and help each other to generate a better yield from their crops.
Agriculture is such a big part of Cambodia and we at Geeks in Cambodia are delighted that agricultural information is being adapted to be available online so that all farmers can benefit from a digital platform.
Check back tomorrow as we sit down with yet another participant in the EPIC Programme – Edemy! They are trying to bring quality English education to students in the rural areas.
This article is part of Geeks in Cambodia’s collaboration with Impact Hub’s EPIC programme. Check out the other articles part of the series here –