Making the Future in Cambodia

Energy & Sustainability Science Workshop
Making the Future in Cambodia

IMG_0971Chum Da doing a sketch of his team’s idea of a fruit rack dryer

Chum Da has a dream. His dream is  to set up a community farm in Siam Reap that can support local farmers. Before it was known as a tourist attraction, Siam Reap was well known for having fertile soil which is suitable for growing many types of vegetables. As a young boy in Siam Reap province in Cambodia, he fractured  his arm when he fell down from a tree. Poverty and the lack of medicinal knowledge caused him to lose his arm due to an infection. To support his studies, he needed to raise chickens on his parents farm. Now, he is a proud graduate of the University of Rural Agriculture specializing in Agriculture Economics and Development.

SEA Makerthon 2016 Phnom Penh: Sustainable Agriculture Innovations

IMG_0975                                               Chum Da having a light moment during the SEA Makerthon 2016

Agriculture remains a significant part of the Cambodian economy. 80% of the population still relies on agriculture for their livelihoods. Chum Da was in high spirits during the SEA Makerthon 2016: Phnom Penh. This was his first time at such an event. The makerthon in Phnom Penh was focused on finding  sustainable and innovative solutions to help small scale farmers. As the first event of its kind in Cambodia, Chum Da was excited to learn making and business skills at the makerthon.

IMG_0931Participants’ briefing during the 2nd day of the makerthon in Phnom Penh

The SEA Makerthon 2016 Phnom Penh is part of the 10 city product design hackathon organized by the Southeast Makerspace Network (SEAMNET) and local makerspaces and fab lab partners. The makerthon in Phnom Penh is jointly organized by ARC Hub Pnh and  TRYBE. ARC Hub Pnh are the pioneers of the maker movement in Cambodia, while TRYBE is an upcoming startup community space that will also have a makerspace when it opens later in October this year.

The theme this year for the SEA Makerthon 2016 is about addressing sustainability. The makerthon in Phnom Penh, held on the 12-14 of August, adapted the theme by looking into creating durable and sustainable innovations for small scale farmers who cannot afford to replace their aging farming equipment or purchase better tools.

The Future Is Made Together
The makerthon brought together an interesting mix of individuals. There were farmers, entrepreneurs and even enthusiastic middle school students from Lyger Learning Centre, a school that uses modern approaches by educating young, talented Cambodians from poor families. Participants of the makerthon had to undergo an application process. The organizers were deliberate in making sure that there were farmers and agricultural experts involved in the competition.

_MG_9084Chum Da’s team mate and the final prototype of the fruit dryer rack.

An “all seasons” fruit dryer rack with additional add ons.

P1020041                    One of the participants of Team Solar Dryer shows how he used 3D modeling to make the dyer.

parabolic 2                       Creating a solar panel in a parabolic shape to focus more sunlight on a larger surface area


A portable solar drying cart which can be hitched onto a motorcycle or a cow if the farmer has to travel between his fields.


Can you guess what this is? It is a manual cassava cutter that is able to dice large amounts of cassava using a leg pedal. This invention is useful in places with limited electricity. Suos Savin, 36 (on the  left) sells agricultural tools. Nun Vitou (on the right) is a 14 year old student from Liger Learning Centre.

14086272_1266581520027577_6543085127502454752_oThe Casava Cutting Machine prototype in the process of being built!

IMG_1124The Eco Fresh Box team uses burlap and bamboo as an alternative to styrofoam boxes to keep fruits and vegetables fresh. Seyha (first one on the right) comes from a family of farmers. There are currently no cheap and natural alternatives to styrofoam boxes to store and transport harvested crops to the market. 

Making for the Community

IMG_1158 Winners of the SEA Makerthon 2016: Phnom Penh. Team Rat Hunter with their device that emits the sound of a snake (a natural predator of the rat) to run towards rat traps. From left: Means Likun (19), Chanthy Leang (33) and PauvRachana Phauk (28)

Chanthy would be the first to tell you that she would never believe that she and her team would win the first prize. ” The makerthon is all about leaving your comfort zone. I was very scared of joining the competition as I would not normally consider myself a maker. But through the competition, I am proud to say I am a maker now!” As a Unit Coordinator at a local university, Chanthy had never heard of makerspaces until she joined the makerthon.

Initially, no one wanted to join her team to work on her idea of controlling rat populations in rural farms. Discouraged, she worked hard over the 3 days to convince her team mates that this was a meaningful problem to pursue. According to official data released by the Agriculture Department in 2005, 17% of all rice crops were destroyed by rats. Urbanization and a lack of waste collection infrastructure has led to the increase of rat populations. The current method of rat poison has led to many issues such as water pollution. None of the team Rat Hunter members have ever stepped into a makerspace before. But after the makerthon, they will be working closely with ARC Hub Pnh and their team to improve on their prototype for the finals in Singapore in October 2016.

Throughout the 3 day makerthon, there was an undeniable energy. It was one of hope and optimism. After decades of war, Cambodia can now look towards brighter days through its new generation of makers. As Ki Chong Tran, co-founder of ARC Hub Phnom Penh and lead organizer for the makerthon said, “There is no better time than now for the maker movement in Cambodia. I am blown away by the level of creativity displayed by the participants. Many of them are also keen to be part of our makerspace activities after being introduced to classes such as 3D printing.”

The maker movement in Southeast Asia is only at its beginning. In Cambodia, the maker movement presents an opportunity to transform the lives of millions.

Half of the Phnom Penh organizing team! From left: Nadia Wong (co-founder of TRYBE), Melanie Tan (Southeast Asia Makerspace Network & Sustainable Living Lab), Ki Chong Tran (co-founder of ARC Hub Phn) and Kongngy Hav (owner of the social enterprise My Dream Home)


Happy participants after 3 days of making!

The SEA Makerthon 2016 will see 10 cities across the region organizing makerthons. Not only will this see 1000-1500 makers tackle challenges related to sustainability, all winning teams will be incubated under a regional Maker Apprenticeship Programme to refine their prototypes into working products.

The 10 winning teams will compete against each other at the Grand Finale in Singapore during the Asian Makers’ Summit (InnovASEAN) on the 15-16 of October.

The SEA Makerthon and InnovASEAN 2016 is organized by the Southeast Asian Makerspace Network (SEAMNET).


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