Meet Sam Coggins a city boy determined to get back to his agricultural roots

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Hi I’m Sam and I love agriculture for two reasons:

First, it is a practical ‘lever’ for contributing to things I believe in. Enabling farmers to grow more and better food using fewer resources enables farmers to support their families, conserve the environment and nourish their communities.

Second, there are so many ways to pull the ‘lever’. In my young career I’ve had the chance to learn from coconut farmers in Sri Lanka, research soil microbiology at the CSIRO, work on a salmon farm in Tasmania, shadow agronomists in the Liverpool Plains and assist rice breeders in the Philippines. When you do dentistry you’re going to be a dentist but when you do agriculture you are spoilt for choice.

So what lead me to discover this passion for agriculture? My uncle and dad graze cattle in the New South Wales Central Tablelands, mum grew up on a dairy farm in the Bega Valley and my cousin is part of a sheep-wheat enterprise in the Riverina. This family background falsely suggests I grew up on a farm. I was hoping to avoid the c-word in this but I was born and raised in the suburbs of Canberra.

I was always tempted to do agriculture at school but got deterred by the stigma attached to it. I signed up to study agriculture in Year 11 and dropped it within two weeks because teachers discouraged me and mates told me it was a “drop-kick” subject.

In Year 12 Julian Cribb visited our school and spoke about the need to feed a rapidly growing population in the face of climate change and dwindling natural resources. Julian enabled me to realise agriculture is a mechanism for contributing to things that mean something. This inspired me to do a Sydney Uni Agricultural Science degree, which included a semester abroad in Sri Lanka and an honours research project in soil and data science.

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Two friends I met through my semester of study in Sri Lanka

For work I’m stoked to be contributing to soil research that benefit farmers in Australia and developing counties through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research graduate program. On the side, I’m developing a smartphone app with two friends to provide personalised fertiliser recommendations to rice farmers in Myanmar. After the graduate program, I plan to do an agronomy PhD and continue working on the smartphone app. Agriculture is too dynamic and diverse to predict what I will do in the longer term but I will no doubt be doing something to support farmers.

Sam Coggins 2           Internship at International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines

I believe in Young Farming Champions (YFC) because it enables agriculture to find young people and young people to find agriculture. In the minds of too many people, agriculture is an old man fixing a scarecrow in the mud. YFC has the ability to replace this image with a young female agronomist flying a drone in a school. YFC powerfully demonstrates that agriculture is for the young AND the old, using scarecrows AND the latest technology, in the office AND in the mud. I scratch my head trying to imagine a better way for school students to discover their career in agriculture.

Sam Coggins 3                Harvesting rice plants for transplanting in Myanmar.


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