In 2017 Young Farming Champion Sam Coggins graduated from university in one of the most prosperous cities in the world, yet his focus is on the millions of farmers in developing countries. He has a passion to help them strengthen their scientific and technological capacity and move towards sustainable patterns of consumption and production.
“In 2014, approximately 805 million people in the world did not have enough food
to lead a healthy, active life. That’s about one in nine people on Earth.
The vast majority of these people live in developing countries. Poor nutrition
is the underlying cause in nearly half (45%) of all deaths of children under
five years old – 3.1 million children each year. While all people have a
right to safe and nutritious food, this human right is denied to many.
Like other important resources, food is not equally distributed across the world.”
Source World Vision
With a degree in soil science from The University of Sydney Sam now works with The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), an organisation that commissions research for the benefit of farmers in developing countries and Australia.
I’m chipping in as graduate in ACIAR’s soils program. I get to work on meaningful
projects alongside highly capable and down-to-earth people.
I’m genuinely loving it.
Sam credits his parents for financially supporting him through university, which allowed him the time and freedom to follow his altruistic dreams for a better world. While at university he:
- Mentored and tutored indigenous high school students through the AIME program.
- Created the Food Wastage Fighters Society with the aims to reduce wastage and boost community awareness. The society won the ‘Best New Club’ award and has over 150 members.
- Studied for a semester in Sri Lanka and interned at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines through the New Colombo Plan Scholarship and spoke on behalf of the 100 2016 New Colombo Plan scholars at the awards ceremony.
- Participated in the Bayer Youth Ag Summit in Belgium as well as the Chicago Council Food Security Symposium in Washington DC.
- Went through the University of Sydney Genesis startup incubator, which generated projects such as ChemCrush (which won Best Social Innovation) and RiseHarvest.
Sam’s many achievements at university (including participation in AFL, soccer and athletics) culminated in the awarding of the prestigious University of Sydney Convocation Medal in 2018:
“This medal is awarded to one person who, in the previous year, graduated or
completed the requirements for a bachelor’s degree, and who has achieved a
high standard of academic proficiency, contributed to the diverse life of the
University, and may also have contributed to the broader community.”
On winning the Convocation Medal Sam was more rewarded by the joy in his parents’ faces, for personal recognition is not as important to Sam as the work he is doing. His time in Sri Lanka, in particular, was a life-changing event for him and taught him great lessons that will guide his career well into the future:
“I tasted the unfairness of the world during my semester in Sri Lanka. I learned
that achievements in my life will always originate from opportunities I was
lucky to get. This lesson beat the arrogance out of me and made me
commit to a career contributing to a fairer world.”
That career is on a stellar trajectory. Sam, with two friends, is further developing RiseHarvest, a smartphone app designed to help Burmese farmers use nitrogen fertiliser more effectively. This project was selected from 800 teams from 160 countries in the Thought for Food Challenge and will allow Sam and his friends to pitch the idea at the TFF Summit, which takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in July 2018.
Though the accolades may flow, Sam Coggins will remain committed to his ideals of contributing to that fairer world through agricultural innovation.
Shoutout to our superstar journalist Mandy McKeesick for writing this story